Wendy Wooden and her mother, Darcy Daniels, are very familiar with MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s (MGHfC) Emergency Department and inpatient units. Wendy was diagnosed at age 3 with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), caused by an E. coli infection, and has a complex medical history including heart failure, kidney and pancreatic damage that required a kidney transplant, and a partial intestinal removal at age 5. Her care has spanned five pediatric subspecialties and forced the family to move from their home in Vermont to Massachusetts so the now 12-year-old can be closer to her medical team. 

While Wendy is a frequent patient accustomed to beeping machines and procedures, she says she still gets overwhelmed by urgent trips and admissions to the hospital. In 2014 – when a neighbor called for advice about what to expect when her two children were going to be in the hospital – Wendy realized that other children, less experienced with medical treatment, may feel similar anxieties.  

With the help of her mother, Wooden wrote “You Are Here: Wendy’s Welcome to the ED,” a guide for what fellow pediatric patients can expect during an emergency room visit and how to help reduce anxiety and foster communication between their parents and providers. 

"We've learned a lot over the years from the compassionate care we've received from Wendy's team of doctors, nurses and other staff members," says Wendy’s mother Darcy Daniels, who has become an advocate for family-centered care on the MGHfC Family Advisory Council and other subcommittees. “We wanted to share those lessons so other patients and families can get the best care possible while cutting down on stress and worry. Thanks to the Family Advisory Council, we had a forum where we could go and have our ideas not only heard, but connect us to the right people in the hospital to make the project happen.”

The project gained new life thanks to Payette, a Boston-based architecture firm, who transformed the story into an animated video. The nine-minute piece is narrated by Wendy and uses stop-motion animation – in which an image is incrementally altered in individual photos to mimic movement atop altered video of the MGH environment. It provides step-by-step introductions about what to expect during trauma care and highlights the department’s child-focused features, including interactive LED lights that help soothe patients and child life specialists.

 “We were inspired by Wendy’s generosity of spirit and dedication to using her own experience to help educate other children and families about being an MGHfC patient,” says Stuart Baur, AIA, associate principal at Payette. ”From the moment we became aware of the project, it was clear how important it could be and how much comfort it could bring to people who are navigating a potentially stressful experience.”

Working from Wendy’s narrative, the Payette team developed the animation concept and storyboard before enlisting the help of over 20 staff members who spent more than 1,000 hours contributing their expertise in drawing, animation, still and time-lapse photography, videography, computer scripting and video editing to bring the final animation to life.

“Wendy’s Welcome” is the latest edition in MGHfC’s efforts to provide a dedicated pediatric space that helps children manage stress, while optimizing care during emergency treatment. After nearly five years of designing and planning, the new Pediatric Emergency Department – outfitted with televisions, iPads and toys – was unveiled in 2015. The area offers a friendly, unintimidating environment with bright artwork and individually themed exam rooms. The video will be a welcome addition allowing for concerns or questions to be addressed through a familiar vehicle – namely a cartoon – with the voice and perspective of a child, says Ari Cohen, MD, division chief of MGHfC Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

“Our jobs require us to treat acute illness and injury, but as doctors, we also realize the need to address potential stress and anxiety in kids who require an emergency visit here,” says Cohen. “Wendy’s Welcome to the ED’ is one more tool in our educational toy box that we can offer to kids and their families to ease their fears."

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