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The Mermaid on the Wall

Nurses Help Ease Kids' Pre-Surgery Fears by Raising Funds for Murals

Nurses in the Pediatric Surgical
Center enjoy working in the beautiful
environment they helped create by
raising money for a series of colorful
murals throughout the Surgery Center.

When Maria Fareri Children's Hospital at Westchester Medical Center first opened, a child ready for surgery would be taken to the operating room through large double doors and a long corridor filled with bright lights and white walls – a typical hospital scenario, but an unnecessary, scary one that Pediatric Surgical Center Nurse Manager Nancy Miranda, R.N., decided to do something about.

"I couldn't take it anymore. Every surgery, the doors would open, the kids would see this scary hallway, and their faces would drop," says Nancy. "I could see the fear in their eyes, and it broke my heart."

The Super Scrubs
That's when Nancy and 25 of her co-workers decided to form the "Super Scrubs" team to participate in Maria Fareri Children's Hospital's annual Go the Distance walk to raise funds to expand and enhance programs at the hospital – in this case, to turn those white walls into beautiful works of art.

"I saw the Go the Distance walk as a golden opportunity because it is organized so participants can direct the money they raise to a particular project," Nancy says. "I wanted to create something positive and really beautiful for the Surgical Center to support the family-centered environment here.”

Super Scrubs walked for the first time in 2005, raising $13,700. And they've walked every year since then. Now when the doors open from the waiting area to the Surgical Center, a child sees a series of bright, colorful murals including an underwater wonderland featuring a mermaid playing a tambourine, a dolphin playing a violin and a clown fish like the famous "Nemo" character. At the end of the hall, there is an enormous octopus building a sand castle. These fanciful scenes were created by Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., muralist Lisa Samalin, who also painted the virtual firehouse on the hospital’s third floor.

A Much-Needed Distraction
By talking to the children about the scenes on the walls, Nancy says, nurses are able to distract them from their surgeries and reduce the anxiety they feel. "The kids really respond to the murals and the calmer the kids are, the easier it is for the parents," she says.

While Nancy and her team's original vision was to make the corridor leading to the operating room less frightening, Nancy says she is delighted that "the whole thing has grown and blossomed" thanks to the generosity of community groups and individuals. One family touched by the care their child received in the Surgical Center donated the funds to have a mural painted in the patient waiting area. The Rye Firefighters donated funds for murals in the pre-op and recovery areas.

In the preop area, brightly colored images of a fox, a dancing heron, a giraffe, an alpaca and other wildlife enliven the walls, while the recovery area features more subdued colors and images of a turtle, a goose and a fish. For Nancy, a 25-year nursing veteran who has spent most of her career in pediatrics, the project speaks volumes about the support Maria Fareri Children's Hospital enjoys in the community and the value of the Pediatric Surgical Program.

Over 500 children come through the pediatric operating rooms each month for a wide array of procedures ranging from complex heart surgery to plastic surgery to correct craniofacial abnormalities. Surgeons use the latest techniques including minimally invasive and robotic surgery to reduce pain and shorten recovery time. In fact, demand for minimally invasive surgery has increased so much that a new specially equipped operating room is being added, bringing the total number of minimally invasive ORs to five and the total number of ORs to eight.

All of this is good news, according to Nancy, a graduate of Pace University, who says she was drawn to nursing for a simple reason: "I wanted to help people and support them through difficult times."


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