Doug Dietz is the creator of the “Adventure Discovery Series” of modified MR and CT scanners. But his machines didn’t start out as child-friendly experiences. He explained the genesis of his project during a Ted Talk.

Dietz had just finished designing a big MR scanner and went in person to a hospital to see it in action. A little girl was coming into the MR room to be scanned. He said in his Ted Talk: “I see this young family coming down the hallway and I can tell as they get closer that the little girl is weeping.” Standing behind the young patient, Dietz had the chance to see the room through a 7 year old’s eyes for the first time. He suddenly noticed that there was a big scary warning sticker and black and yellow tape on the floor that made it look like some kind of crime scene. The colors were an ugly beige. Then he said: “that machine that I had designed basically looked like a brick with a hole in it.”

Through a process of getting input from both children and designers, Dietz came up with various themes for each machine, which involved creating an entirely new environment with floor to ceiling murals and even illustrated pathways that lead out into the hallway. Plus aromatherapy is used in keeping with each theme, a coconut scent for the tropical theme, for example. He even created scripts for the hospital staff to be the guides in the “adventures.”

His greatest reward came while talking with a mother whose six-year-old daughter had just been scanned in the MRI “pirate ship.” The little girl came over and tugged on her mother’s skirt. “Mommy,” she asked, “can we come back tomorrow?”

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“Pirate Island” puts the young patient at the helm of a ship

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Children are helped to lie still by imagining that they must not rock the boat.

For the “Sunset Safari,” some hospitals give the child a plush animal to go with the theme.

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For an MRI “Space Voyage” theme, technicians tell children that the spaceship is going into hyper-drive when the machine becomes loud.

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For a PET scan, it’s often the “Camp Cozy” theme, because children need to be calm as the test takes about 45 minutes.

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The “Jungle Adventure” features a table that’s painted like a canoe where kids are told fish will leap over them if they lie still.

Here the children experience a cable car ride.

For the “Coral City” theme, there’s a disco ball that makes the lighting look like underwater as the submarine shaped stretcher goes through the scanner.

Watch Doug Dietz’s Ted Talk about transforming healthcare for children

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