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Colin Learns Miller Children’s & Women’s is Fluent in “Kid”

When Krista McHale was driving, she could tell when her 4-year-old son, Colin, was sleeping. The sound of snoring coming from the back seat always gave it away. Colin’s snoring, along with sleep apnea, was cause for concern. After a sleep study, Colin’s pediatrician recommended he have his tonsils removed.

Krista was informed that Colin’s surgery would be performed at the Surgical Center at Memorial Care Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.

Krista and Colin arrived at Miller Children’s & Women’s at 6:30 a.m. on the day of surgery. The experience would take them both by surprise.

“I was expecting, it being a children's hospital, a certain amount of kid-friendliness during the whole process,” says Krista. “However, my expectations were far exceeded from the moment we arrived.”

After the check-in process, Krista and Colin headed to the pre-operative playroom, where they would meet their surgical team.

“The operating room doctors, nurses and anesthesiologists all came out to introduce themselves to us, but the part that really stood out to me was Shanna, the Child Life Specialist,” says Krista. “She explained the whole procedure to my son, speaking directly to him, and using words he could understand. She brought gloves, a cap and a mask for my son to touch and hold. She had photos of the operating room and explained all the equipment he was going to see. She even asked him questions at the end to make sure he remembered and understood what they had discussed.”

At Miller Children’s & Women’s, child life specialists teach children about surgery, medical tests and procedures in advance to help them feel prepared and set their expectations through a process called “medical play.”

“Preparing children for hospitalization or surgery helps to lessen their anxieties and fears,” says Shanna Jacobs, a child life specialist at Miller Children’s & Women’s. “Allowing young patients to see medical devices before they’re used by a doctor or nurse reduces their stress, and in turn, their family's stress. The hospital can be a scary place for young children and it’s our job to help make the experience a more positive one.”

“Without Shanna there would have been a lot more unknowns, and the unknown is always the part that is scary,” says Krista. “Because she could translate from ‘medical’ to ‘kid,’ she removed as much of the unknown as possible.”


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