An interactive toy, funded by the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Charity is helping to prepare some of the county’s youngest patients for hospital scans without the need of sedation or a general anaesthetic.

A Kitten Scanner is being used at Grantham and District Hospital to help children understand how an MRI scanner works, what it feels like to have a scan and how the results can help them in their recovery.

In the first few months, it has enabled dozens of children to have their scan without the need for any sedation.

Play Leader Sandy Crook and Radiographer Helen Disbrow-Carpenter are part of the team that introduced the Kitten Scanner and both continue to play an instrumental role in the clinics.

Sandy said: “I absolutely love my job. I spend most of my time working as a nursery nurse at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, but really enjoy coming to Grantham to help prepare children for their scans using the Kitten Scanner.

“Coming to hospital is daunting for anyone, but especially when you are a child. By using the app and playing with the Kitten Scanner the children understand what is happening and can ask any questions they might have. Only when they are comfortable, I bring them from the Kingfisher Suite and across the courtyard for them to have their own MRI scan with Helen and the team.

“They know what it will look like, what sounds they might hear and they can also pick a film to watch while they are having their scan. We also allow a parent to be present and have a ribbon that they and their child can each hold an end of throughout the scan for support and comfort.”

Helen added: “Previously, many of our young patients may have needed to be sedated for their scan, but now through play we can do it without. By not needing sedation it means they can have their scans quicker. It is so much better for our patients, their parents and also it frees up hospital resources for our other patients.”

The £15,000 Kitten Scanner was purchased through the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Charity. Charity Manager, Ben Petts, said: “We jumped at the chance to get involved in such an amazing project. Hearing the difference that the Kitten Scanner is already making for patients is wonderful.

“Plans are in place to run more sessions so that even more of our young patients can get to play with the Kitten Scanner.” 

Nine-year-old Phoebe McCormack from near Lincoln recently had an MRI scan. She said: “I was really nervous, but playing with Sandy and the Kitten Scanner really helped. I was able to ask lots of questions and so when I was having my scan I knew what to expect. It wasn’t frightening as I knew what was going on. I would tell other boys and girls that there is nothing to worry about and to come and see for themselves if they need a scan.”

Phoebe’s dad Chris added: “We were all a bit nervous this morning, but it has been really wonderful. Phoebe has had fun and more importantly she has been able to have the scan that she needed. We cannot thank the team and the charity enough for what they are doing.”