UNC Children’s Hospital has a sweet new ride, and it’s transporting patients to the operating room in style.
Surgery can be scary for kids and their parents, but the pint-sized remote-controlled car is making the trip easier for everyone.
Pediatric and adult neurosurgeon Carolyn Quinsey donated the car — equipped with working headlights, engine sounds and a few Carolina bumper stickers — to bring laughter and joy to her patients as they head into surgery.
“I think any way to introduce some fun and whimsy into the kids’ lives should always be done,” Quinsey said. When she saw a story on social media about another hospital that had upgraded from gurney to miniature sports car, she went out and bought one of her own.
“Frankly, I was jealous,” she said. “I wanted my kids to go back to the OR in a car. I just wanted the kids I care for to have the best experience possible.”
The car has already accomplished its mission of making the ride to the operating room a little less scary.
“The kids — particularly the ones who need multiple surgeries — they’re familiar with the car, and they look forward to it,” Quinsey said. “It really makes the experience of going back to the OR something that’s associated with fun.”
But it’s not just the kids who love the new ride. The anesthesiologists quickly got in on the action, buckling the kids in and steering them to the operating room with a remote control.
Quinsey said the patients’ parents are just as grateful.
“I had a kid with a brain tumor who was going into surgery, and his mom and grandma were so tearful,” she said. “Normally the kid would be pretty scared, but this time he was smiling and waving. It really changed the experience for the parents to be able to see their kid enjoying himself and not having any fear.”
The new car is only one of the ways the UNC Children’s Hospital staff introduces fun into their patients’ days. The pediatric neurosurgery clinic has accumulated six or seven superhero costumes for medical students to wear during visits with patients.
“I’ll go into the room and I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m friends with Captain America, and he really wants to meet you. Is it OK if he comes in?’” Quinsey said. “The kids are so excited, and the parents love it too. Physicians walking by will even stop in to see what’s going on.”
The hospital is also equipped with a play atrium, musical instruments and an arcade room to serve children of all ages.
“There’s an element of fun for everyone,” Quinsey said.