KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Going to the doctor can be scary even for adults, so it's not hard to understand the anxiety patients at Children's Mercy Hospital may feel.
Child Life Specialists help the child patients understand what's happening, but they also try to provide a mental escape through community programming, which has drastically changed in the face of the pandemic.
“When (COVID-19) happened, we had to really revamp that program," Trista Williams, a Children's Mercy child life specialist and patient/family support volunteer coordinator, said. "We’re not allowed to gather patients together. We can’t bring in groups from the outside, so we started a closed-circuit television program.”
The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department is among the groups who put together programming for the kids.
“The level of social interaction just plummeted for their patients, so that’s why I wanted to reach out initially,” KCPD Community Interaction Officer Bryan Masterson said.
Masterson, who works in the Metro Patrol Division, became Williams’ partner-in-crime, so to speak, for a monthly episode featuring KCPD.
Children’s Mercy produces eight to 10 shows a week, which are live-streamed stream to patient’s rooms at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. through the closed-circuit set up the hospital used to stream worship services before the pandemic.
“I have a child development degree, but now I feel like I’m a news broadcaster," Williams said with a laugh. "So, maybe I’m going to try and come and get a job with you guys."
Masterson reached out with an idea for KCPD to get involved in September.
During tours of various KCPD units, patients can participate from their hospital beds by calling down to Williams, who then asks he question to Bryan live during the show.
“The first question they ask is ... about donuts, every time,” Masterson said with a smile. “Of course, who doesn’t love donuts? So, that’s my answer.”
While the show serves as a unique opportunity for patients at Children’s Mercy, some of whom are there for months at a time, it’s also teaching them about the world around them and giving them social interactions they wouldn’t otherwise have.
“When we first start getting the phone calls and we know the patients are getting engaged, that’s a great feeling, because how many opportunities do you have for basically a one on one conversation with a police officer?” Masterson said.
Patients will get a personally tailored virtual tour of the KCPD Crime Lab in February.
“It just allows them to not focus on their hospitalization, not focus on a diagnosis," Masterson said. "Let a kid be a kid, right?"
Williams added, "It allows the patients to see them as good guys and really see what their job is all about and not just see them as somebody that’s always taking down the bad guys. They’re here for helping us and things like that.”
The closed-circuit shows gives the children at Children's Mercy something to look forward to each day.
“I just have an overwhelming feeling of joy, because they are excited that they’re participating, they are excited that they’re winning prizes, they’re excited that they’re talking to police officers, whatever it may be," Williams said. "And we’ve had (Chiefs wide receiver) Tyreek Hill on our show."
Masterson knows it's tough to compete with a Super Bowl champion, but he said KCPD and its officers and happy to be part of the effort.
"Well, we’re not as exciting as Tyreek Hill right now ... but everybody wants to know what the police department does, what we have, what we have to offer,” Masterson said.
Williams said the shows provide everyone involved with a good feeling, and at a time when everybody seems to need it.
“To really offer some thing that gives back to the community is a wonderful feeling,” Masterson said.
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