Western Carolina University’s School of Nursing established the WHEE Wagon Program last spring to provide medically fragile children wagons with IV poles so they can play and just be a kid. Assistant professor Susan Hester says she wanted to see Jackson County benefit from the wagons.
That became a reality recently when the School of Nursing donated two WHEE wagons to Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva. It was the program’s second donation since it began, with the first going out to Mission Children’s Hospital in Asheville at the end of spring semester.
“We’re excited,” Hester said. “This is the hospital that’s closest to Western Carolina University. We have a very close partnership with (Harris Regional Hospital) and we’re so excited to have a win-win situation like this where we’re helping children, we’re helping Harris Regional and we’re helping the School of Nursing.”
The program is part of a service-learning project for nursing students. Seniors Larissa Capps of Hendersonville, Marisa Beatty of Chapel Hill, and Christy Barker of Statesville were on hand to deliver the wagons.
This semester, Capps helped develop information on the School of Nursing’s website that helps promote the WHEE Wagon Program.
“We have a list of hospitals in different areas with pediatric units that could utilize the wagons,” Capps said. “We’ll have another team next semester that will reach out to these areas. We wanted to take care of our community first, which is great.”
Beatty was responsible for helping make brochures for sponsors and recipients of the wagons. She and Barker recently visited Mission Children’s Hospital and saw its wagon in use.
“That was cool to see it in action there,” Beatty said. “We know that will help some kids here, too, so that’s nice to know.”
The wagons are used to divert young patients’ attention away from pain sensation, a strategy called nonpharmacological distraction. It allows the hospitalized or homebound child to receive his or her IV medications or fluids, or be connected to other medical equipment such as a feeding pump, while also reconnecting with the everyday world of being a child.
Being involved in the program has helped Barker develop an appreciation for nonpharmacological distraction.
“We always want to say medicine is the first thing to go to when we have pain,” Barker said. “But kids, when they’re small, they just want to be kids. Seeing the impact this can have on a child’s life, I actually got to experience it in a hospital. I had two patients that I drove around in the wagons. It just makes them so happy. It’s just a wagon, but it’s not just a wagon. It’s a way for the kids to get around and still be a kid and have fun and feel normal. Sometimes they can be alienated due to chronic and acute diseases.”
Lucretia Stargell, vice president of business and service line development at Harris Regional Hospital, said she looks forward to seeing the impact the wagons will have on their young patients.
“We’re really grateful to the Western Carolina University nursing students for this donation,” she said. “It’s going to help our youngest patients feel at home and feel comfortable with the care that they are getting. We’re just really thankful that Western thought of us to donate these wagons.
“Perhaps, it will make (the children) be a little bit more compliant with some of the things we need them to do that might be scary to a child. It might help them be in an environment that they’re more comfortable in. I would see us using the wagons to transport a child from maybe the emergency department down to radiology to get a procedure. It’ll also be fun for the staff to have something to offer the child.”
The wagons range in cost from $225 for one with a permanently attached IV pole to $250 for one with a detachable pole that makes transporting the wagon easier. They are donated free of charge. In addition to children’s hospitals, Hester would like to donate wagons to daycare centers with medically fragile children and pediatric outpatient centers.
Those interested in making donations or purchasing a wagon should contact Hester at email@example.com or 828-227-2898.