SOMC Encourages Kids To ‘Love Your Heart’

More than 1,000 kindergartners from 11 area schools joined Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man on a journey down the yellow-brick road and into the world of healthy heart care during the annual Love Your Heart program at Southern Ohio Medical Center. The event took place April 1, 2 and 3 at the SOMC Friends Community Center.

Introduced by the SOMC Intensive Care Unit in 1999, the Love Your Heart program is an educational tool that combines hands-on learning stations, the five senses and a popular storybook theme to teach five- and six-year-olds how to stay smart when it comes to keeping their hearts healthy.

“We wanted to create a program that provides children with beneficial information in a really fun way,” Christy Aeh, nurse manager of the ICU at SOMC, said. “That’s how we came up with the idea to tie heart care into the story of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.”

Aeh explained that during the two-hour program, children are taught how the Tin Man received a heart from the Wizard, but neglected to take proper care of it and caused it to turn black. Children are then given the opportunity to go through five interactive exhibits that incorporate sight, taste, touch, hearing and exercise into maintaining a healthy heart to teach the Tin Man how to make his heart red again.

SOMC employees dressed in full costume to bring the story’s most beloved characters to life and more than 100 other hospital employees and nursing students from around the region helped in monitoring the event.

“Not only do children get excited to see the story progress and do the activities, but we also have a lot of fun dressing up and acting it out,” Aeh said.

“The program was created as a way to give back to our community but it’s turned into so much more,” Korina Eichenlaub, nurse educator of the SOMC ICU, said. “My daughter has attended the program and when she came home she explained to me how blood flows through her ‘vines’. I had to tell her that they’re actually called veins, but it’s great to see the impact the story had on her.”

“Teachers always give us really positive feedback about the program, too,” Lora Maddix, registered nurse of the SOMC ICU and program coordinator, said. “They look forward to this field trip and they really fight for it if it gets cut from their schedule.”

In fact, Love Your Heart has been so successful that the ICU staff has twice received the American Association of Critical Care Nurses’ Seabury and Smith, Inc., Community Service Award for their efforts.

“We started by funding the program ourselves, but now we’re able to do so much more through grants and the help of the Scioto County Area Foundation,” Aeh said. “The program’s turned into a great resource for our local children and we look forward to continuing our partnership in health to those we serve and the lives we positively affect for many years to come.”