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Waukegan hospital visit is teachable moment for kids

Judy Sandler director diagnostic imaging services VistMedical Center East Waukegan shows x-rays second graders from North School Waukegan Monday including

Judy Sandler, director of diagnostic imaging services at Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, shows x-rays to second graders from North School in Waukegan on Monday, including images of a mouth, a shoulder with a bullet in it and a rooster lamp. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 16, 2012 1:55AM

WAUKEGAN — When it came time for students at North Elementary School to learn about broken bones during their tour Monday afternoon at Vista Medical Center East, they had two visual aids — “Mr. Bones,” a two-foot-tall plastic skeleton, and their classmate, Diamond Rice.

Diamond broke her lower arm a month ago and will get her pink cast off in about a week. When Vista joint-center coordinator Margie Taylor brought out Mr. Bones to explain how fractures heal from being placed in casts, she turned to Diamond for confirmation.

“Can you wiggle your fingers for me?” she said, and Diamond did just that. “When you first got that on, it was pretty hard to do, wasn’t it? But pretty soon, she’ll have that off, and she’ll be just fine.”

The teachable moment was one of several enjoyed by the group of about 30 second-graders who wanted to learn more about the germs, viruses, bacteria and sports injuries that they’ve been studying in class.

Vista marketing communication specialist Cynthia Alexander said school groups regularly schedule such tours, but especially those in the general vicinity of the Sheridan Road hospital.

“All the schools that can walk over have come by,” she said, mentioning a St. Anastasia’s visit last fall and another by Greenwood Elementary School on North Avenue. “If a school calls and asks, we can arrange for them to come in and do a hands-on tour [about] things like how not to be scared if they have to go to the hospital.”

North School teachers Marci Galazkiewicz and Colleen Tapling walked their charges over after lunchtime and began with a presentation on infection-control by nurse Karen Obenauf, who explained that “germs are something we can’t see, but they are everywhere and on everything we touch.”

The solution?

“Wash your hands for the appropriate amount of time,” she said, utilizing a tip that can connect with all ages. “If you sing ‘Happy Birthday’ once and sing it slowly while you wash your hands, that’s probably the appropriate amount of time.”

After putting the tip into practice with hand sanitizer, the students then headed out for tours of the emergency room, a Waukegan Fire Department ambulance and the radiology department, where Judy Sandler brought out X-rays of a shoulder with a gunshot wound, a foot that had stepped on a needle and a stomach with an obvious coin in it.

“That’s either a quarter or a dime, and they swallowed it and it wasn’t moving, so they needed surgery to get it out,” said Sandler, drawing gasps from a captive audience. “So don’t put coins in your mouth. They can get stuck — plus coins are dirty, because everyone has touched them.”

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