August 02, 2013
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Call it “Operation Tagalong.” Girl Scout Troop 1898 in Sykesville, Md., spent almost 500 hours this year creating little livers and spleens for stuffed animal puppies. Named by the 13-year-old scouts for the Girl Scout cookie its coloring resembles, a new “Tagalong” puppy is given to each patient who enters Johns Hopkins Children’s Center with an injury to one of those organs. Pediatric staff tuck a felt likeness into the stuffed animal’s “tummy,” which closes with Velcro.
Operation Tagalong describes the scouts’ project to earn their Girl Scout Silver Star by creating the handcrafted items, which hospital nurses and staff use (along with the puppy, which is given to the child) to help young patients understand their treatments or surgeries to repair organ damage, whether from motor vehicle or bike accidents, falls or other trauma.
“It’s hard for children to visualize a liver injury,” says Susan Ziegfeld, R.N., manager of the Pediatric Trauma and Burn Program at Hopkins Children’s Center. “Now, we can show them.”
Ziegfeld first envisioned the child-friendly approach when she and her daughters were at a “Build-a-Bear” store, where children can place a little heart in their toy animals after stuffing them, “to show their love,” she says. “I thought ‘If you can put a heart in a stuffed animal, why not a spleen?’”
So with a grant from the annual Mix 106.5 FM Radiothon for Hopkins Children’s Center, Ziegfeld designed and purchased the multi-colored “trauma puppies” a few years ago. When the original “organs” that volunteers made for Ziegfeld and her colleagues ran out, she asked Troop 1898 if it would be interested in making more.
With help from “Just Sew Sew,” in Westminster, Md., the scouts created more than 500 stuffed red and blue “livers” and purple “spleens.” Ziegfeld, along with Hopkins Children’s Center’s Injury Prevention Coordinator for Pediatric Trauma Lauren Davis, and pediatric trauma nurse practitioner Kim McIltrot, were there to accept them on behalf of the hospital. McIltrot’s two daughters are troop members.