As workplace injuries go, this one was serious.
The patient — an 8-inch plastic animatronic Minion named Stuart — had a bandage on his arm. When his, um, colleague, Amy K. Olson, a child life specialist in Radiology, investigated further, she discovered Stuart's arm had separated from his body. The bandage was not going to cut it.
"It's Anesthesia's fault," someone told her. "Send them the bill."
Olson knew the team often borrowed Stuart to help distract and relax young patients receiving anesthesia before imaging exams. She was curious to learn how the little yellow fellow had acquired his injury. So she ferried Stuart to the Anesthesia workroom where she left him with a note:
"What happened to Stuart?!"
Not long after, Stuart arrived back on her desk. This time, the bandage on his arm was complemented by an oxygen mask, blood pressure cuff and IVs.
There was a note for Olson, as well, informing her that Stuart would need to be on light duty for six weeks. He'd been given a sucker (which looks suspiciously like a mouth swab) as a reward for being a good patient.
"I was kidding when I sent them that note," Olson says. "Our toys break all the time."
But the response from her colleagues in Anesthesia was no joke.
"It shows that they get it — that they understand the value of play," Olson says.
For physicians and nurses, the tools of the trade include thermometers and stethoscopes. For Olson, they include toy medical kits, glitter wands and teddy bears. In more serious cases, she says she may need to break out the Fart-'n-Fire Super-Size Blaster.
"People assume the hospital is serious, but it can't be with kids," she says. "Kids learn and express themselves through play. It's comforting and familiar. Using toys like the Blaster makes everyone feel relaxed and calm."
Kids learn and express themselves through play. It's comforting and familiar. Using toys like the Blaster makes everyone feel relaxed and calm.Amy K. Olson
Olson says it means the world to her that staff in the Radiology Department understand the needs of Mayo's youngest patients.
"These are providers who primarily see adult patients," she says. "I don't think they realize how good they are with kids."
The team's compassion for kids was apparent to Olson before Stuart's injury. But the care the Anesthesia team — including Justin Layton, Joe Ricci and Kyle Haselton, M.D. — provided to Stuart made their commitment to children even more visible.
"Child Life works hard to provide a good environment for kids," says Layton, a nurse anesthetist. "The perioperative period can be scary for them. It was evident that this 'patient' was a beloved character, and we figured he would be greatly missed."
That's why Layton and his colleagues worked to put Stuart back together again.
"The procedure was uncomplicated," he says. "A little Dermabond (super glue) to help stabilize the shoulder reduction. With some postoperative oxygen and IV pain meds, Stuart was ready for the post-anesthesia care unit."
Now I have a healthy Stuart and a recovering Stuart to use as teaching tools with patients.Amy K. Olson
Olson was planning to let Stuart retire within a few days of his injury. That plan changed after he caught the attention of young patients who were captivated by seeing him sporting the same medical gear that they did.
"Stuart became an immediate ice breaker," Olson says. "So now I have a healthy Stuart and a recovering Stuart to use as teaching tools with patients."
While Stuart's arm may heal in time, Layton says he does face some chronic health issues.
"We can't do anything for his jaundiced color," Layton says. "Or for his insatiable appetite for bananas."
Editor's note: Stuart's injury, it turns out, was a result of a vigorous tug from a patient. We're told he's now pain-free and enjoying his newfound notoriety.