Clinic aims to alleviate children's fears

Joel Tamminga (left) listens as his daughter Ashlynne, age 4 gets a diagnosis on her teddy bear from Randy Boateng. Brian Thompson / The Expositor

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Four-year-old Ashlynne Tamminga, accompanied by her father Joel, brought her teddy bear to a triage area in the Children’s Department at the Paris branch of the County of Brant Public Library on Saturday morning.

Dressed as an emergency room physician, Randy Boateng asked questions of the Paris youngster as he examined the plush pink bear. The diagnosis of the bear, suspected of eating too many sweets, was high blood pressure, a cold and sore throat.

Tamminga said it was the first time he brought his family to the annual Kiwanis Teddy Bear Clinic, now in its ninth year in Paris.

“It’s good to get kids used to the idea of seeing a practitioner,” Tamminga said. “It’s a positive experience, and when they need it, they’ll be less nervous.”

Alleviating children’s fears of medical treatments is the goal of the annual event, noted Sheila Moore, president of the Kiwanis Club of Paris-Brant.

“The objective is to expose children to the kinds of questions and instruments that would be used if they were a patient in a medical field,” Moore said. “Children bring in whatever treasure they want, and those are the patients. The guardian is the child.”

Originally held at the Willett Hospital, the clinic moved to the Smile City dental centre in downtown Paris, before moving to the library this year to better accommodate those attending.

“We have an optometrist, dental clinic and pharmacy upstairs, and a triage centre with doctors and a treatment room on the lower level,” Moore explained.

Upstairs, four-year-old Sayen Stryker-Montoya of Paris sat in a chair opposite optometrist Dr. Michael Lunardo.

Optometrist Dr. Michael Lunardo checks the retinas of four-year-old Sayen Stryker-Montoya’s plush animal Cowie on Saturday. Brian Thompson / The Expositor

With her plush cow named Cowie on her lap, Lunardo described the eye exam and showed the youngster the light emitted by his ophthalmoscope. Lunardo, who is married to Paris optometrist Dr. Kristen Murray, proceeded to check the health of the plush toy’s retina, and gave the child a pair of sunglasses to help protect Cowie’s eyes.

“She’s very wary about going to the dentist,” said her mother Rachel Stryker. “So we thought it’d be a great opportunity to give her an idea of what it’s all about, so she doesn’t have to be so worried.”

Cowie was seen by the doctors downstairs, picked up some medication for his cough and some vitamins at the pharmacy.

“I think the benefit is that we’re exposing the kids to an environment that’s not so scary,” Lunardo explained. “Kids will feel confident and comfortable going in for their first eye check up, or dental check up. That’s the most important thing, I think.

“Fear can make the whole exam go sideways.”