Surgical dolls from San Mateo bring smiles to pediatric patients

SAN MATEO, Calif. (KGO) -- Comfort comes in many forms when you're sick - and for some local pediatric patients, comfort comes from stuffed dolls. They're made by a group in San Mateo whose mission is to not only help children but to help doctors do their work.

For Kennedi Johns, the stuffed toy is not just a play doll. It is a learning tool that helps the nine-year-old understand the medical treatments she'll be going through at UC Benioff Children's Hospital.

Kennedi applied an IV on her doll, just like the procedures she's had on her regular trips to the hospital. She has been receiving treatment at the hospital since birth, when she was diagnosed with a serious stomach condition.

"I was born at the hospital and had a lot of problems," she said.

The problems require procedures that might be frightening to a child.

Child Life Specialist Krystal Gaunt says surgical dolls help ease the fears of young patients. "The importance of the doll is giving children the opportunity to gain mastery and control over some of the medical things that happen here,"

Lubiana Cernobori founded the group that makes the surgical dolls. She and her volunteers belong to the Italian American Women's Guild of San Mateo. They cut, stuff and stitch the dolls with loving care.

"They chitchat while they're working. It's a great group activity and the same time, we're doing something for a great cause," said Cernobori.

To personalize each doll, they let the children draw their own faces. The hospital gowns are decorative and colorful.

Since they started seven years ago, the group has delivered nearly two thousand dolls to five hospitals.

"Every stitch we make, there's a little prayer that goes with it. We pray for these children to get better," Cernobori told ABC7 News.

For the children who receive the dolls, it's a blessing.
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