MRI’s can be scary. You’ve got to lie down on a bed and not move for even a half hour sometimes and the machine makes loud noises with lights whirring around. Children especially dislike the experience and US hospitals statistics show that between 80-90% of children needing an MRI were sedated to take the test.
Mechanical engineer Doug Dietz discovered this problem when he saw a terrified girl and her helpless parents go into the room where the machine he designed would scan the girl. “I remember when I worked in the Pittsburgh University Hospital and a young couple with a little girl came in for a scan and she was crying. I bent down and saw what she was looking at and it was scary. I immediately understood why she was crying. You have a darkened room with fluorescents flickering and the machine looks like a big white brick with a hole in it. I designed that machine and I now knew how unsuitable it was for children.”
In cooperation between the hospital and the medical equipment company he created a line of MRI machines with a theme of ‘discovery and adventure’. These MRI machines have pleasant pictures painted on them and virtual reality experiences. They also have soothing aromatic oils to calm the atmosphere in the room. The walls of the room are decorated with the theme. In one MRI machine the bed lowers down and it’s like a canoe. A gentle voice says: “Lie down in the canoe and if you don’t move the fish will start to jump on you!” other machines were done up like submarines or an outdoor camp where the child lays on the ‘sleeping bag’ and looks up at the real looking stars.
The reactions of the children coming in not knowing what to expect and enthusiastically enjoying the experience is worth everything.in the hospital that has these machines they only needed to sedate 2 children in over a year which is less than 1% instead of 80%. Doug says, “One girl even asked: “Can I come back again tomorrow?” This is probably the greatest reward I could ever get!”