How a big bird named ‘Magrau’ is helping make hospital visits less scary for B.C. kids

Click to play video: 'Magrau the macaw helps make hospital visits less scary for kids'
Magrau the macaw helps make hospital visits less scary for kids
An emergency room doctor at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, B.C. has teamed up ventriloquist Kellie Haines and her trusty sidekick Magrau the macaw to create videos aimed a making a visit to the hospital a little less daunting for children. Sharron Bates reports – Feb 1, 2023

A B.C. doctor is aiming to make visits to the emergency room less scary for kids, with the help of a big colourful bird named “Magrau.”

Magrau is a ventriloquist puppet, and the star of six videos for children aiming to take the mystery out of common procedures they might encounter at the hospital.

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“So far the feedback has been great. It doesn’t take much effort to provide a better experience for kids,” Dr. Amir Behboudi, an ER physician at White Rock’s Peace Arch Hospital told Global News.

“The way we interact with kids can have long-lasting effects, either positive or negative. It takes a small effort and investment to change that to a positive one.”

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Behboudi said he was inspired to try and find ways to insulate kids from fear of the hospital seven years ago, when his own son was admitted and required multiple procedures.

He said his son was lucky because a specialist in working with children was on hand at the time, but added that frequently isn’t the case.

“It was at that time I made it my mission to provide a similar experience for the kids that we receive in our hospital,” he said.

With funding from the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation, Behboudi and his team worked up scripts that help explain six common procedures: blood tests, sedation, X-rays, CT scans, ultrasound scans and IV drips.

Magrau the puppet gets a CT scan. Fraser Health

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He then teamed up with Kellie Haines, a veteran ventriloquist who has worked with Canuck Place and the Vancouver Children’s Festival.

“It makes me feel amazing to be able to do this for kids. I was in the hospital as well, when I was a youngster, and I brought Magrau in there for me and we performed for the kids,” she said.

“I know what it feels like to be afraid of certain things but when you understand them they become, oh this isn’t so hard, I can do this, so I just feel really grateful.”

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In each of the videos, Magrau undergoes one of the six procedures with Haines at his side, and the two interact, describing what is going on.

Physical actions and body language play a large part in the scripts, which Haines said helps kids understand what’s happening.

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The videos are hosted on YouTube, and can be accessed by scanning QR codes on posters placed in hospitals throughout the Fraser Health region.

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“It’s very rewarding to see the parents and kids watching them, and they laugh through it even though the child might be going through a painful procedure,” Behboudi said.

“When the parents are calm, the child becomes calm, too. So overall it just provides a better experience for the kids and the parents, too.”

While the posters are currently only up at Fraser Health hospitals, Behboudi said the videos are accessible to anyone anywhere in the world, and he’s hopeful the project can expand.

His next goal, he said, is raising funds to translate them into multiple languages.

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