Across China: Chinese hospitals show happiness key to recovery

Updated: 2018-01-15

Instead of being wheeled in on a gurney, three-year-old Xixi rode into the theater at the Hunan Children's Hospital in Central China in a remote-control toy sportscar.

Hitting the brake and the gas at whim, Xixi, wearing a surgical gown, steered her red toy car into an exclusive parking space, and strolled into an adjacent room for anesthesia and hernia surgery.

The hospital came up with the idea in October, 2017. Children are allowed to drive for five to 10 minutes with the supervision of nurse. More than 100 children aged one to six have so far made the trip.

"Before surgery, children tend to become very anxious, especially when they are separated from parents," said Peng Tuochao, an anesthetist at the hospital. "Now we offer rides and lollipops to relieve their stress."

Two cars are available for the little patients. Before the operation, they can also watch animated cartoons in the waiting room where walls are covered with cartoon posters.

"This is great," said Xixi's mother. "My daughter's peaceful mood also calmed me down too."

Children are much more likely to show pre-surgery anxiety than adults. About 60 percent of children have pre-surgery anxiety, which will result in high blood pressure and an elevated heart rate, neither of which are particularly welcome before surgery.

"Today, children are much less likely to cry and resist, reducing respiratory secretions and enabling both the anaesthesia and operation to go more smoothly," Peng said.

The hospital has found post-surgery pain greatly reduced and remarkably faster rehabilitation for children who take the ride.

Pain relief for children is increasingly prioritized at Chinese hospitals.

At Shanghai Children's Medical Center, walls and equipment are decorated with cartoons, and doctors dress like fairy tale characters.

"Parents and kids expect better medical services. Catering to children's instincts makes their surgery a more comfortable experience," said Qu Shuangquan, a doctor at Hunan Children's Hospital.

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