Smiles and giggles filled the halls of the St. Luke’s Nampa Medical Center surgery wing on a recent Tuesday morning. Just before heading into surgery, Antonio “AJ” Olmos, 3, cruised up and down the floor in a shiny new Power Wheels ATV.
Olmos couldn’t contain his grin—or cheery laughter—gliding by his parents, nurses and hospital staff.
“His favorite toy is cars, so being in a little Power Wheel … made his day,” said Olmos’s mom, Erika.
Originally from Parma, Erika and husband Tony Olmos now live in Nampa and are parents to seven children. AJ, the youngest, had surgery on his tonsils, adenoids and ears. The quick joyride through the hallways took his mind off the pending procedures, Erika Olmos said.
“(He’s a) very happy child right now,” she added.
The Mountain Home ATV/UTV Club recently donated the mini cruiser to the St. Luke’s Health Foundation. Traveling nurse Andrew Gernigin, who currently works at the Nampa hospital, heard about the donation and an idea sparked.
“When I started here as a travel nurse contractor, I saw that we had a patient population that had some kids in it and I want to do everything we can to make the experience for kids better,” he said.
It turns out, the toy is a great way to alleviate the fears and anxiety often associated with a hospital visit, especially for a family with young kids, Gernigin said.
“I reached out to some of my old contacts in the Boise area who ultimately put me in touch with the child life services department,” he added. “They said they just had a donation of this truck. Do you guys think that it would be useful (in Nampa)?’”
Gernigin said yes, enthusiastically. Hospital supervisors supported the idea, and the truck arrived in Nampa in December.
“We got it out here and every kid who gets in, it’s just like the best part of their day,” Gernigin said. “We don’t want kids to be scared of hospitals or scared of doctors. We want it to be a fun (experience).”
The Olmos parents had an older child who recently underwent a similar procedure, and they were emotional watching their child being wheeled into surgery on a hospital bed.
This time around, some Power Wheels playtime put everyone at ease.
“I think he just had a good time and then it makes you feel a lot more calm that you are not seeing him wheeled away on a bed,” Erika Olmos said.
As for future use, Gernigin and the staff plan to put more miles on the toy tires.
“We have been able to use it a decent amount and we expect that to grow as the way the area is growing,” he said. “We will get to use it more and more.”
Daniel Mediate works in the St. Luke’s Community Engagement department.