A Ben's Medibear

Vygon UK donates equipment worth thousands to Northern Ireland non-profit company whose bears help demystify medical procedures

Not-for-profit company Ben’s MedibearTM – which creates teddies fitted with bespoke medical devices in an effort to promote social inclusion and acceptance for anyone living with a medical aid – is benefiting from a donation from Swindon-based distributor Vygon UK.

Rather than destroying products coming to the end of their life, Vygon has shared more than 150 of its medical devices valued at over £29,000, including enteral feeding tubes and buttons, to allow more bears to be created.

According to Ben’s MedibearTM founder and ‘Bear Surgeon’ Ciara Johnston, medical device donations are crucial to the work of the Banbridge-based non-profit. “Having access to medical devices is vital. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to provide education on the utilisation and acceptance of such products. We’ve found that it is easier for people to accept and learn when seeing and using the actual device rather than, for example, through a knitted or 3D-printed model.”

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Each handmade Ben’s MedibearTM is designed to be as unique as its owner and can be adapted with everything from scars, tracheostomies and button PEG tubes, to hearing aids or cochlear implants, and almost everything in between, which is why Ciara relies so heavily on the donation of medical devices.

The concept for the bears was inspired by her own children, one of whom has special needs. “After our son was born, we realised that adults are often frightened by children and medical devices. We wanted the adults in our family and circle of friends to see the devices in a different light and decided to put it on a teddy bear, which is more tactile and user friendly than on a ‘sick child’. The bears help normalise medical equipment for people, reduce any worries they have, and allow them to better understand the user’s needs.”

Although Ben’s MedibearTM bears were initially used by parents, they have seen a surge in demand from hospitals, such as inpatient and daycare haematology units, as well for long-term patients in Paediatric Intensive Care units (PICUs), where restricted visiting means that many family members cannot see the devices.

Mark Chadwick, Business Development Manager at Vygon UK, says: “We’ve been a proud supporter of Ben’s MedibearTM for many years and are thrilled to play a small part in the organisation’s mission to promote social inclusion and acceptance, using our medical devices to help bring these unique bears to life. The bears are not only instrumental in helping parents, friends and family gain a greater understanding of the needs of those living with a medical device or procedure, but also serve as a vital resource in hospital settings.”

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