Words by Colette Carr

Image: NUI Galway

An Irish university are gearing up to open their 14th annual Teddy Bear Hospital tomorrow, with appointments for over 1200 sick teddies lined up to help primary school children feel comfortable in the hospital setting and around doctors.

The National University of Ireland Galway’s health promotion society Sláinte Society are running the two-day event with 200 medical, healthcare and science students diagnosing and treating the teddy bears under the watchful eye of their 1200 minders from 29 local primary schools.

The society, which promotes physical and mental health, will take care of the teddies, but spend time with the children ranging from 3-8 years old in a bid to remove any fear factor associated with trips to the hospital or doctor’s office.

Teddies will be seen for any ailment from sore tummies to hurting ears and on arrival to the on-campus hospital the children and patients will take part in a one-on-one consultation with a doctor, before an examination will determine what their ‘pawscription’ is, with a resulting referral to surgery or x-ray. The students of NUI will man x-ray and MRI machines specially designed for the cuddly patients, giving a realistic but assuring picture of the process in the real world. Recuperating teddy bears will receive the appropriate medical supplies from the fully stocked Teddy Bear Pharmacy, which will also offer delicious fruit to promote healthy eating.

Once the children’s teddies have been tended to, the kids will let their hair down and unwind with entertainment from NUI’s circus society and enjoy a bouncy castle.

Anna Lynam, a second year occupational therapy student and co-auditor of Sláinte Society, said: “We are so excited to welcome the 14th annual Teddy Bear Hospital this year. Despite the ever-growing demand from schools to attend the event, we strive to include as many schools as possible; conscious that each and every teddy bear in Galway deserves the best care. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first ‘patients’ and hope to present an atmosphere of fun, enthusiasm and encouragement for all.”

Ríona Hughes, NUI Galway’s Societies Officer, said: “The Teddy Bear hospital is a magical opportunity for the society to invite the children and their teddies to campus and provide a valuable learning experience for all. It is one of the NUI Galway societies’ most colourful and endearing community outreach programme and we are thrilled with its success. Congratulations to Sláinte Society who engage such a large number of our students in this event for such a positive purpose and we look forward to a rewarding few days for all involved.”

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