When I was a little girl I LOVED my dolls. My first american girl doll looked just like me and I took her everywhere. We wore matching clothes and I even cut my hair to match hers (big mistake). For me, my dolls were so much more than just toys to have fun with, they brought me joy and comfort whereever I was – especially since I was so shy and often needed that “security blanket.”
It’s not difficult to find dolls with wheelchairs, crutches, casts, glasses, even diabetic kits and dolls who are beautifully bald, but feeding tubes? No way, tubes are not good for the brand, not something kids recognize, not cool like casts that can be signed or wheelchairs that can allow you to take the special, rarely used elevator at school – yet for those who have tubes, these toys can make an incredible impact, and that is why I’m here to be their voice.
When I got my first feeding tube (oh so long ago), my mom made me a “button buddy” by hand and to this day, that koala, Kevin, goes with me on every long trip to the specialists, every hospital admission, and is always arms reach away when I’m not in my “safe space” or when I’m struggling to feel strong and positive about my situation. For me, my buddy represents the love and support I recieve from my mom and the rest of my family as well as the strength and perserverence I have had since getting my first tube, my first diagnosis even. Kevin has two tubes and a central line now, and he’s been a trooper through it all.
With toys like these kids are able to share about things that may otherwise be difficult for them to communicate or to understand; through play they are able to learn from one another and see all of these new things in a way that is not scary or confusing, just kids being kids – all together, blind to any differences, and every child deserves that, tubie or otherwise.
If the buddy goes to a child with a parent who is a tubie, the child can now not only watch while their mom/dad is “eating” or doing fluids or changing the dressing, but with a buddy, the child can now participate by using the buddy to do these tasks right along side their parent! The same is true of siblings of tubies, classmates, and tubies themselves as they learn to care for their tubes and go through procedures, hospital visits, tube replacements, and feeds or medications that they have to do daily at home or inpatient.
Button buddies allow everyone in the tubie’s life to be involved in as much of their loved one’s journey as possible in a hands on way that can help them learn and grow and understand all of the unknowns and fears they came in with. Heck, even care takers can get a practice round in on a buddy if they’re feeling anxious about how to hook up their tubie or access a line, prime out the air, etc.
Buddies have the ability to provide comfort beyond the normal “safety blanket” item that most have and are attached to as children, it becomes another warrior in your battle and another supporter in your journey.
The incredible thing about play is that children will take in a new toy and hardly even notice any “difference” in it, in this case they may ask what the tube is, maybe what it is for, but likely no more than that, and then it’s just another toy. There’s no judgment, no prejudice, simply children playing together, learning as they go, growing, and that in turn becomes them widening their perspective and accepting one another with no qualifications, no recognition of their differences – just as they took in their toys.
When I give a button buddy to one of our little tubies and they see that tube, the light that comes into their eyes is just incredible. Suddenly that toy & it’s very expensive piece of plastic in its tummy changes how even the “littles” themselves see the feeding tubes, how they accept their own tubes, how they accept themselves.
You can so clearly see that the button buddy – a stuffed animal – has the power to change how these children view their tubes from being a medical device that makes them different into a part of their body that makes them special, that their tubes are not scary or gross or something to be ashamed of. When they fell in love with their Button Buddy tube and all, they have accepted themselves – tube and all.
My goal this year is to spread the love and the comfort that my button buddy has brought me with as many of our “newbies” as I can, and that’s all in thanks to our donors who have donated the tubes and stuffed animals or the funds for our animals and the shipping costs it takes us to send out our packages.
We’ve had incredible donations from both AMT (Applied Medical Technology, Inc.)and eSutures Medical Supply Sales, both of whom are making it possible for us to send buddies to an incredibly increased amount of tubies this year than any year past ( we are still always looking for low profile tubes) and I just can’t wait to share this with you all….
If you want to sponsor a Button Buddy you can do so by making a donation of anywhere from $12 (for just the animal) – $30 (for the button & “surgery”) – each bear is valued at $30 and shipping is $8-$15 each.
PayPal & Venmo are both @positivelyrachel.com
You can also purchase an animal and send that to us to use to create a buddy! We have an amazon list or you can pick one out on your own and ship it to us!
Here is our AMAZON Buddy link!