'Prizes for Pokes' helps ease injection pain for tiny patients

Friday, January 8, 2016
Abby and Colton Sedlacek have filled their shopping carts with "Prizes for Pokes." (Courtesy photo)

McCOOK, Neb. -- When you're a small child, trips to the doctor's office or a stay in the hospital can be scary. It is especially frightening when the nurse or the doctor pulls out a long sharp needle, which the children instantly sense will lead to an "ouchie."

Mindful of this, the health care professionals at Community Hospital, Community Hospital Health Foundation and McCook Clinic teamed up with Abby Sedlacek and Darin Nebens who, with their families initiated a program called "Prizes for Pokes" in 2014.

Highly successful and much appreciated, the Prizes for Pokes program has helped ease the pain for hundreds of young children who receive "prizes" (toys) when they get "pokes" (of needles) at McCook Clinic, the Community Hospital emergency room, the injection/infusion center the hospital's lab and joining this year, the patient wing.

The Prizes for Pokes program -- now in its second year -- is so successful that it's time to replenish the supply of toys.

Utilizing funds raised through Community Hospital employees and McCook Masonic Lodge No. 135, Terri Shipshock, Executive Director of Community Hospital Health Foundation invited Abby and Darin to help shop to replenish the supply. Darin was unable to assist as he had returned to school after the holiday.

Abby, instead recruited her brother Colton for the task.

Abby was happy to help. During frequent trips to Children's Hospital in Omaha for treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (a cancer of the blood), Abby received plenty of pokes on the hematology/oncology floor. She also encountered other children dealing with serious illnesses, including Darin who is battling neuroblastoma, a cancerous attack on his nervous system.

Having been through so much, it's inspirational to see how loving and caring Abby and Darin are for others, downplaying their own ailments while they worry and wonder about their family, their friends and their new acquaintances at Children's Hospital.

This was never more apparent than it was this week when Abby, with the help of her older brother, Colton, did the shopping at Walmart for new toys for the Prizes for Pokes program.

With tears in her eyes, Community Hospital Foundation executive director, Terri Shipshock, described the scene. "They were both so excited and so selfless, never asking for anything for themselves. Their focus was on making sure that they had items that would appeal to all ages ,,, from infants to young teens. Abby and Colton conscientiously watched the tally as the toys went through the cash register at checkout. Both were ecstatic when the final item was rung up and they learned they had stayed within the budget they had been given to spend."

"It takes a village," is a truism which certainly applies to McCook and the other communities of Southwest Nebraska. "Prizes for Pokes" is an excellent example of this. It starts with two children who have faced tremendous challenges. Their original appeal rallied community members such as McCook Elementary School, McCook National Bank, KRD Credit Union and others to donate toys. The children's mothers then approached Community Hospital and McCook Clinic to distribute the toys where kids were receiving treatment. Not to be outdone, Community Hospital Health Foundation promoted a toy and cash drive with hospital employees that secured toys and built a fund to continue the program indefinitely.

"This is one of the best experiences I have had in 25 years of fundraising," Director Shipshock said. "After Abby's and Colton's shopping excursion I have the task of sorting through all the bags, dividing up large and small and age-appropriate prizes for pokes. I can't think of anything I would rather do. My hope as the New Year begins is that all of you have something as wonderful in your lives. Thanks, Abby, Darrin and Colton. Your courage and inspiration uplifts us all."

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