Beanie Baby collection brings comfort to children in Afghanistan
Twyla Gimbel, MPH, nurse educator at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, Kabul, Afghanistan, poses for a picture with two young patients after giving them Beanie Babies.
Marie Hodgkins, MBA, RN, had been collecting Beanie Babies for more than eight years. When the collecting urge had diminished, she was eager to recapture the space that the now more than 2,000 Beanie Babies occupied in her home. Ms. Hodgkins, now the director of patient care services at Loma Linda University Medical Center, had heard of the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital (WAKH) project that Loma Linda University was working on in Kabul, Afghanistan. She thought that sick children at WAKH might benefit from her Beanie Babies.
On the morning of September 30, 2006, a suicide bomber detonated near the Afghanistan Interior Ministry offices. At least 12 people were killed and more than 42 injured. The injured men, women, and children were taken to several area hospitals, one being Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital.
Although WAKH is primarily an adult hospital and rarely has pediatric patients, 15 patients were sent there, including several children. Twyla Gimbel, MPH, nurse educator at WAKH, remembers the staff busily creating more patient rooms for the casualties. “I can only imagine what was going through their minds, having gone through such an experience,” says Ms. Gimbel. “I was hoping and praying that they would find our hospital a safe oasis, after having experienced such trauma.”
Ms. Gimbel suddenly remembered the box of Beanie Babies that had recently arrived from Loma Linda. She picked up an armful and went around the wards handing out Beanie Babies to the children.
“One little girl was about to have her dressing changed and did not want to cooperate,” Ms. Gimbel recounts. “But it was then that I walked in with the Beanie Baby. She gladly took one of the stuffed animals.”
Since September, Ms. Gimbel has continued to bring smiles to children’s faces as she has found new homes for the Beanie Babies.
Recently, a young boy was admitted for a hernia repair. After asking permission from the father, Ms. Gimbel collected a Beanie Baby from the storeroom.
“Before I went into his room, I was standing in the hallway talking with someone,” says Ms. Gimbel.
“But the little boy spotted me and had the biggest smile on his face. When he got the little rabbit, he snuggled it up to his face and looked so pleased.”
When Ms. Hodgkins heard of how the Beanie Babies were used at WAKH, she said, “I do believe this is what Beanie Babies were designed for!” She plans to send more beanies when a container is next sent to Afghanistan.
Loma Linda University began managing WAKH through a USAID grant in April 2005.
By Dustin R. Jones, MA