New UPMC Northwest transportation drives away kids’ fears

From staff reports

UPMC Northwest Hospital is putting some of its smallest patients in the driver’s seat.

Pediatric patients can now drive themselves to the operating room in miniature battery-powered cars.

“Most kids are stressed when it comes to operations and procedures, so the operating room staff came up with an innovative way to help calm their fears,” said Theresa Edder, executive director of the non-profit Northwest Hospital Foundation.

Patients are riding to the operating room in style thanks to an anonymous donation to the foundation. Kids ranging from ages 2 to 10 can choose from a Jeep or Mercedes-Benz convertible.

The cars light up, and they can play music with Bluetooth technology. The vehicles can be operated by the kids or by a nurse or doctor with a remote controller.

Since the cars were put in use almost a month ago, the driving experience is already working its magic, said Edder. Children such as Evan Ward, son of Michael and Amanda Ward of Franklin, are feeling less anxious about their upcoming procedures.

“Evan had a wonderful surgical experience at UPMC Northwest. The staff was diligent and very attentive to him when he arrived. Once he was settled in, the time quickly passed as he was given the opportunity to drive the new electric cars that they are utilizing for their pediatric patients,” said Evan’s parents.

“Instead of being apprehensive about the unfamiliar environment he was in, he was calm, laughing, and he enjoyed driving around the hallway where everyone greeted him. We are so thankful that Evan will remember his surgery day as a positive and fun experience,” Evan’s parents added.

Edder said the program is beneficial to the staff and surgeons, too, because “it puts their minds at ease to know the kids are happier, relaxed and having fun.”

Dr. Ibrahim Bawab, head of otorhinolaryngology/head and neck surgery at UPMC Northwest, noted, “Surgery day can be stressful for almost everyone and especially for kids.

As a surgeon who also manages the pediatric population, I’ve witnessed the anxiety and agitation firsthand, mostly when the kids are being separated from their parents and wheeled to the operating room.”

There is a different atmosphere with the kids’ cars in place, he said.

“Luckily, now with the new cars at UPMC Northwest, the kids can be more at ease, they can ride the miniature cars, and head toward the operating room in style,” Bawab said. “This will certainly help decrease anxiety and create an overall environment of fun and playfulness,” Bawab added.

More information about the Northwest Hospital Foundation is available by contacting Edder at (814) 676-7145 or by visiting