When the time came for New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital to replace their CT scanner this year, the hospital’s radiology staff were primarily concerned with their equipment delivering the lowest possible dose of radiation to their patients, but that strategy came with an aesthetic bonus.
Following a study in 2001 by New York-Presbyterian finding that CT scanners might be harmful, the institution which is one of the biggest children’s hospitals in country and the only one in Manhattan, worked with GE to design and install a machine that is both safer and makes kids feel like they’re sailing the high seas.
“There aren’t scary pirates — there’s a pussycat pirate and one that looks like Curious George,” says Dr. Carrie Ruzal-Shapiro, chief of Pediatric Radiology. “The parents have been really positive too. It makes it less scarier for the kids.”
On average, New York-Presbyterian has about 200 inpatients per day, treating about 150 kids each day in the pediatric emergency room. And every day kids ranging from newborn to age 21 come in for CT scan for ailments from neonatal abnormalities to abdominal pain to head trauma. “Our more adult patients ages 17 to 21 ask for the pirate scanner, too,” Ruzal-Shapiro says.
“Hurry up and get out so I can play,” says Registered Nurse Naomi Hawkins, when asked what’s the best response she’s received from a child seeing the pirate scanner for the first time.
A 14-year-old patient at New York-Presbyterian prepares for her pirate scan.
In actuality, there are no toys or games or techs dressed up like pirates for the patients to play with; it’s a monkey painted on wall wearing a bandana, a tiger with an eye patch, and a device normally used to detect bone trauma, tumors, and hemorrhages dressed up like the helm of a ship. “Kids who are sick know so many ways of distancing themselves from what is going on physically,” says Hawkins. “Much more than grown-ups do. I mean, we pay for yoga, it doesn’t work. We’re told if you can meditate you’re smarter — the children are the smartest.”