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Child patients ride in style at Children’s Hospital

ST. LOUIS - The traditional modes of hospital transportation can be flat out scary; my how things are changing at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Aiden Dugger of Mansfield, Missouri, had a special ride to his 4-hour heart procedure.

“He was really wanting to get here this morning so he could ride that truck,” said his mom, Brittney Dugger.

Aiden road in a kid-sized, battery-powered, mini-Toyota Tundra, recently donated to the hospital.

He was so excited he almost forgot to stop for a kiss good-bye before heading down the hallway for the closure of his Ductus Arteriosis, an opening in a heart-lung artery that’s supposed to close after birth.

It’s caused frightening lung spasms and 22 hospitalizations for Aiden in 4 years.

He sometimes has to fight for air.

“His lungs work extra hard.  So right here (his throat) will sink in.  His ribs will sink in,” his mom said.  “He’s been a sick boy for a long time.”

It helps to know he’s going into surgery with a big smile.

He was even “high-fiving” workers in the O.R.

“That’s pretty cool,” his mom said.

So is the second vehicle in the hospital’s new “kiddie” fleet:  the “Bambini” convertible.

It is there because of Ryleigh Long of Fenton, a former heart patient at Children’s.

The “Bambini” was just her speed.

Oh my God, she was a redhead!  Her nickname was ‘Red’,” her mother, Michelle Long said.  “She’d laugh all the time.  This one (pointing to Ryleigh’s dad) was her favorite. She loved her daddy.”

Ryleigh had a heart defect at birth. She died in May, not quite 2 and a half years old.

“I felt like the sports car represented her the most.  She would have loved to be in that thing,” said her father, Billy Long.

Ryleigh’s parents donated the “Bambini”.

The parents of former patient, Elliott Llewelyn of Mt. Sterling, Illinois, who died in April, donated that mini-“Tundra” Aiden loves so much.

After the donations, hospital staff came up with a policy for the cars’ use.

Nurses actually “drive” using remote control.

They also act as traffic cops en route to procedures, always mindful of the little ones lost who’ve left behind a highway of smiles.

“It’s great for us as nurses.  We know who contributed those,” said Morgan Johnson, BSN, RN.  “Every time we see those cars we remember those kids and they hold a dear place in our heart.”

“They’re appreciated very much,” said Brittney Dugger.  “We’ve got pictures to show for it.  (Aiden’s) smile says everything.”

Aiden has recovered from the procedure and is now back home.

Ryleigh’s parents want to donate another “car”.

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