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HMC Focuses on Experience When Caring for Young Patients in a Calm EnvironmentPediatric Anesthesia

Going under anesthesia in the hospital Operating Room can be scary for grown-ups, but is almost always even scarier for children.

While adults can intellectually understand the experience, kids, depending on their age, have varying degrees of perceiving what’s happening, said HMC Chief of Anesthesiology Dr. Vijay Gandevia.

“Not only must you deal with the medical issues at hand, but you have to deal with the emotional aspect of the whole process for the children, and their parents,” said Gandevia. “When you provide a calm, stress-free and friendly environment for the family, the medical procedure goes much more smoothly.”

Holyoke Medical Center (HMC)’s highly trained team of anesthesiologists have years of experience working with children, including at Children’s Hospital in Boston, Shriners Hospital and Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Gandevia said.

Fueled with top-notch physicians, anesthesiologists and expert nurses and technicians, HMC offers an unintimidating community hospital environment for children needing surgical procedures under anesthesia, from removing tonsils and inserting ear tubes to removing large volumes of tooth decay or performing colonoscopy or upper endoscopy.

“Holyoke Medical Center is community centered and in that regard, very family centered,” said Pediatric Gastroenterologist Dr. Susan Goode, who performs pediatric procedures at HMC. “The entire staff including nurses and anesthesiologists love kids and are great at what they do. We work as a team to make a procedure the least scary experience that we can.”

When children arrive at HMC, they are greeted by smiling nurses in their own child-friendly, pre-op waiting area and offered age-appropriate toys in a small, comfortable room -- stuffed animals and coloring books for young children; DVD players and videos for older children.

The anesthesiologist calmly talks to the family and child about what will happen when they “go to sleep” and invites the parents to be in the Operating Room with the child until that happens.  Immediately following the procedure, parents greet their child in the recovery area as they wake up, often disoriented, to provide comfort.

“There is an impression that you need to go to a big medical institution for pediatric procedures, or for the highest quality care, but this is simply untrue. Clinically there are definitely conditions that warrant going to a huge medical center, but there are procedures that can be done better with top notch providers, in a smaller, friendlier, much less stressful environment for your child. That’s what sets Holyoke Medical Center apart,” said Gandevia.

“One does not have to sacrifice quality of care at a smaller, calmer hospital,” he emphasized.

Kelly Duffy, of Westfield, experienced this when her 2½ year-old daughter Lily Anne was having dental issues and went to see Dr. Maureen Quinn of Chicopee.

“I was very apprehensive because Lily Anne wasn’t even three years old, but Dr. Quinn and the anesthesiologists were wonderful,” she said. “They called me and did a consult with me over the phone, and then a second consult when we needed it. They were really great.”

In July, Lily Anne had dental surgery to remove tooth decay, have cavities filled and X-Rays taken. Kelly remembers the kind nurse who gave her daughter papers to color and games to play while they waited.

“Lily Anne warmed up by the time we left the waiting room,” said Duffy. “It was very friendly. They had a little TV just her size. The best part was that they allowed me to go into the OR until she was put under, and then I could leave. Everyone was so supportive.”

Dr. Quinn performs pediatric dental procedures at HMC for children who are very young with a large volume of tooth decay or are uncooperative in the office setting and have many cavities; or have special needs like children with autism or Down syndrome, she said.

“HMC offers a great experience for patients . . .  the environment is very quiet and calm and seems to keep them more relaxed in an otherwise stressful situation,” she said. “The staff is compassionate and caring.”

For more information, call the HMC Anesthesia Department at 534-2529.