ARNOLD, Mo. When the EMTs of the Rock Community Ambulance District check their emergency vehicles for readiness, it goes something like this:
Stuffed animals? Check.
Stuffed animals are another piece of equipment for paramedics when dealing with a frightened child or elderly person, said Margie Sammons, Rock Community administrator.
"The teddy bears are so important to us that every morning when we check out the ambulances, we make sure that we have enough stuffed animals to hand out throughout the day," Sammons said. "It's a very vital piece of equipment."
The district gets its stuffed animals from donations and drives, such as the drive that ProActive Chiropractic currently is conducting.
The chiropractic office of Drs. Barbra Cates and Lynette Mayfield will collect new and gently used stuffed animals through the end of June. Donations may be taken to the doctors' office at 3600 Richardson Square Way in Arnold. The toys will be donated to the Rock Community district and other nearby EMT districts.
The EMTs use the stuffed animals to comfort frightened or injured children at accident sites, Sammons said.
"It seems like the state-of-the-art equipment does not provide the comfort that a teddy bear can," she said.
The texture of a plush toy calms patients because the animals are soft and comfortable, said Dr. Frank Gilner of St. Louis University's psychology department. For adult patients, a stuffed animal can trigger memories of childhood and a time when they had no responsibilities, he said.
Stuffed animals "require nothing from us," he said.
Rock Community district isn't the only EMT district to use stuffed animals to put patients at ease; for years, many groups in Jefferson County have carried plush toys in their ambulances. Not only do the toys calm children but they also help lessen children's fear of the paramedics, said a member of the North Jefferson County Ambulance District.
Most ambulance districts in the county rely on donations to boost their supplies of stuffed animal supplies. That's where groups such as ProActive Chiropractic are helpful.
ProActive Chiropractic held a drive two years ago and collected so many stuffed animals that the toys had to be delivered to the district in the back of an ambulance, Cates said. A little more than a week into this drive, the response has been fantastic, she said. Many donors are helping a program that helped them, she said.
"We've heard people say that they've been through an accident and they got a stuffed animal," she said. "And they kept it over the years."