By: Jen Russon
When electric toy vehicles were donated to Broward Health over the summer, a little girl celebrating her third birthday was among the first to take one for a spin around hospital floors.
The joyride, captured on camera, shows pediatric patient Aaliyah Dixon behind the wheel. The turquoise scarf on her head does more than compliment the brightly colored Jeep; it also attests to her brave and near-lifelong battle with cancer.
One of Dixon’s physicians, Dr. Angelica Garzon, said the young girl has been battling cancer since her digestive issues as a 3-month-old infant led to the diagnosis of neuroblastoma – the second most common tumor found in children.
Neuroblastoma is cancer often found in the small glands on top of the kidneys and can develop in the belly, chest, neck, pelvis, and bones. Children ages five or younger are most commonly affected.
Garzon and others on Dixon’s hematology and oncology team agreed the donated Jeeps are beneficial to their patients in maintaining a sense of control and a positive outlook on life.
Robin Cold, nurse manager of surgery said, “They can’t control what is happening to them but they can control the Jeep. The look on their faces when they see the cars is priceless. Then, when they are told they can get in and ride and drive, it is pure joy.”
Rose McKelvie, a registered nurse, and administrator said in addition to happiness, the Jeeps are a huge stress reliever.
“When kids are in the hospital, they are not just little adults – they’re kids in an unknown and frightening situation. The Jeeps allow them to just be a kid while they are in the middle of the stressful situation,” said McKelvie.
The electric-powered vehicles can be used by children ages 2 to 7, during hospital discharge, to ease anxiety before surgeries, or to celebrate a medical milestone such as completing chemotherapy, she said.
While Dixon’s joyride was not due to any of those things this time, her September 27 birthday is a milestone in and of itself. It’s also proof her fellow patients may also get the chance to put the pedal to the metal when their own birthdays roll around.
Dixon is receiving treatment at the Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital at Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. Coral Springs also has Jeeps for the patients to ride – one is pink and the other in red.
The toy cars were donated by the Broward Health Foundation, a nonprofit on a mission to support programs and initiatives that help patients of all ages, not only live to see more birthdays but enjoy life along the way.
Broward Health expects to get more toy Jeeps as funding becomes available.