Life can throw you some curve balls. But sometimes, those curve balls can result in a home run.

You’re standing at first base, helping to coach your daughter’s softball team when your eight-year-old son, crying hysterically, comes running out from the stands with a bleeding nose. What seems like moments later, you find yourself in the children’s emergency department at Royal University Hospital, being told his nose is broken.

By the morning, you are sitting with a plastic surgeon as he explains the nose needs to be operated on immediately so the bone can be straightened out.

So that’s the curve ball. The home run is hit with the arrival of a simple teddy bear.

“It was stressful knowing he was going to go through an operation. Any time you have a child who has to go through any kind of surgery you worry about how is it going to go. How will he cope? How is the anaesthetic going to affect him? You worry about everything and we didn’t expect a bear to help that,” said Louis, whose son Ben broke his nose exactly that way a few weeks ago.

At 7:30 a.m., tired, hungry and bruised, Ben arrived in registration at St. Paul’s Hospital for his day surgery to straighten his nose. As he received his registration band, the clerk reached behind her desk and pulled out a small brown bear and handed it to Ben, explaining that if he wanted, he could have a new friend with him to help during his hospital stay.

Ben after just arriving and receiving his new friend at St.Paul’s Hospital.

Ben after just arriving and receiving his new friend at St.Paul’s Hospital.

“He had a huge smile on his face and he was hugging that bear tight. I just thought that it was nice he would get the bear as a little gift and that would be end of it. I was surprised to watch that bear become the centre of attention for the day and become a really big part of the surgery,” Louis said.

Registration Services in Saskatoon Health Region fundraises throughout the year to support and work with Teddy Bears Anonymous, a registered charity that makes new teddy bears available as a gift for when a child is admitted into hospital. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated staff within Registration Services, these teddy bears are now available at all three Saskatoon hospitals, and soon will be within Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.

Teddy Bears Anonymous
To find out more about Teddy Bears Anonymous or to donate, click here.

Ben arrived on the second floor for surgery, clutching his new bear, and was led right away to the bed that would be his through the course of his stay. Ben’s dad says each one of the staff who met Ben took the time to talk to him and ask about his bear. Ben would explain where the bear came from. Being a huge Star Wars fan, Ben didn’t even hesitate when one nurse asked the bear’s name.

“Darth Teddy,” he replied. And, a new friend was born.

Ben just before surgery and bringing Darth Teddy to receive his ‘candy cane striped’ pjs.

Ben just before surgery and bringing Darth Teddy to receive his ‘candy cane striped’ pjs.

Darth Teddy would go on to escort Ben as he received his pajamas for the day, and all the nurses felt Darth Teddy agreed with them that Ben’s striped PJs weren’t pink, like a girl, but red like a Christmas candy cane.

“Darth Teddy really became Ben’s partner through that day,” his dad said.  “I was just so surprised to watch how each person used that bear to draw Ben’s attention away from what was happening. All our conversations with them included the bear. We even had some pick up on Ben’s love of Star Wars because of Darth Teddy, and joke about the force being there to guide both Ben and Darth Teddy through the surgery.”

As Ben was wheeled into the pre-op area, and his parents had to walk around to come in a different entrance, Darth Teddy stayed with him until he could see his parents.

“He kept asking a lot of questions. He’d ask us if we were going to be with him, what going to happen and if it would hurt. You could tell he was unsure and nervous of whole process,” said Ben’s dad. “The hardest part was knowing Ben would see that operating room and get his IV to be put under without us there. I was nervous about him being alone for that. Watching the doctors and nurses interact with the bear and Ben made me feel even better because I knew they were going to keep him distracted and calm.”

Ben’s parent reassured him he would not be alone. In the moments just before going to the operating room, he was trying to not to cry, but wasn’t letting go too easily of his parents’ hands.

Did you know?
In the new Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan, parents will be allowed in the induction rooms, which is where a child will undergo general anesthesia. Check out the story here.

“We were able to say to him, ‘just hold onto Darth Teddy and we will see you real soon.’ Then, they wheeled him away. We watched him hug that teddy bear after he let go of our hands, looking back at us,” his dad remembered. “Having that bear even made me feel better because I knew he would at least have something to hold and Ben felt like he had a friend with him.”

Watching the surgery board in the waiting area, Louis recalls waiting for that moment Ben’s number changed from operating room to recovery, and the relief he and his wife felt. They were able to both go into recovery as Ben was coming out of the anaesthetic. But what they couldn’t believe is seeing a splint on Darth Teddy’s nose, the same as what Ben had on, with a label on him that said ’You did great Ben! Get well real soon – Darth Teddy.’

“I was just so surprised,” says Ben’s dad. “Whoever took the time to put a splint on the bear’s nose and write that note…it was just so caring and thoughtful because when Ben woke up he felt like he and Darth Teddy really went through this together.”

Ben and Darth Teddy after their surgery.

Ben and Darth Teddy after their surgery.

The recovery staff and Ben’s parents took Darth Teddy and his splinted nose to show Ben as he fully woke and was trying to understand what happened. Ben reached for that bear once again, holding it tightly.

“I would like to thank the staff for them being so understanding of how nervous Ben was feeling, even though he didn’t directly tell them. They just all knew,” says his dad. “How they all focused on that bear and drew that attention away from the actual operation and made that bear a part of the experience was a pretty caring thing.”

“You always hear about the bad in hospitals and uncaring nature of staff. This all showed me that a lot of people who work there care a lot, from the person who gave Ben the teddy bear through all the operating room staff. I want people to know that. I also want the staff to know that even though they might have done their tenth surgery for that day and it’s all very routine for them, for us as patients and parents, it’s brand new and scary. Taking those few moments to really talk with us, focus on that bear and make him and Ben part of the conversation, made all the difference.”

“My best memory of this experience is seeing Ben after surgery hugging the teddy bear, both with splints on their noses, and Ben actually smiling,” Louis said. “I think because of all this he will now be a lot less nervous going to a hospital. When he talks about it, he makes it sound almost fun!”

Today, Darth Teddy with splint still in place even though Ben’s is long gone, travels wherever Ben and the family goes. He has even made an appearance at show and tell at school.

“He still clutches that bear each night in bed, even though he has a lot of other stuffed animals. This one is special. It’s not because it’s a teddy bear, but it’s because this teddy bear went through the same experience and was with him for a very nervous time in his life. He was Ben’s partner and that’s why it means more to him.”

And if you are wondering if Darth Teddy is still important all this time later, Ben’s dad tells us of a conversation Ben had with his mom as Ben was drifting off to sleep just a few days ago.

“Does the hospital ever come and ask for their bear back?” he asked.

“No honey. Why?” replied his mom.

“Well, I would just be so sad to give up Darth Teddy. I love him so much.”