After a Bismarck family endured a medical scare with their 1-year-old, they found comfort in familiar toys and books at an out-of-state hospital.
Since then, they have worked to bring the same comfort to families in North Dakota.
Brian and Sarah Dahl work or have both worked in healthcare. Sarah is a former project manager at a children’s hospital and Brian is an orthopedic surgeon.
Although their backgrounds helped start their own non-profit, it was a scary experience in 2017 that led to it.
Their 13-month-old Vivia had a seizure, made a life flight to an out-of-state facility, and ended up requiring an emergency craniotomy.
“It was the playroom in the children’s department where I could get books off the shelves that we had on our shelves at home. It was really nice to be able to read those stories with the familiarity of a book she already knows in an unfamiliar situation said Sarah.
Vivia has since recovered and her parents have Power of play in Bismarck.
“It’s really nice to see her remember the toys she played with and when we bring these toys to others in the community, she feels like she’s a big part of it,” Brian said. “It’s not just part of her recovery, it’s part of passing that story on to others.”
The mission is simple: to bring comfort to pediatric patients through play.
It supplies toys, cuddly toys and books to both hospitals in Bismarck and has expanded to clinics and surgery centers.
Power of Play started with the youngest patients and has grown ever since.
“Then [ages] five to 10, 10 to 12, 13. Those kids sometimes just need a little distraction to take their mind off the procedure, whatever it is,” explained Brian.
Being on both sides of medical care, they understand how beneficial it is for families to have access to items that make their children feel safe.
Brian said: “Although I specialize in total hips and total knees, I still do a lot of pediatric work and trauma, so I’m in touch with these kids who not infrequently have medical problems, and it’s nice to see that we can find a way have to help them outside of our regular medical care.”
“It helps them in their recovery,” Sarah added, “it helps health professionals take care of them, it helps health professionals interact with them when they are playing and often they get more information from the child.”
This room [see video above] at CHI St. Alexius was already designated for pediatrics, but Power of Play has made it a little more welcoming.
The nonprofit has already done a lot and gives thanks for the supportive response it has received thus far.
“Our community is so amazing,” Brian said. “This is why we came back to North Dakota, this is why it’s the largest state in the country. The community has helped us. Everyone likes the idea of improving healthcare in this way. So it’s been a deep experience for me to see the community step forward in this way and help support a charity like this.”
Sarah added: “We have a very generous community. I am very grateful for that.”
Yet they can do more with the help of others. People can donate money or stuff. Their website has a Amazon Wishlist with which Power of Play can reach even more patients.
“My dream is to have toys and activities and games available at every level of healthcare for pediatric patients in Bismarck and maybe even the entire state,” Sarah said.
With the goal of helping pediatric patients in Bismarck and possibly all over the Peace Garden State… Brian and Sarah Dahl are people you need to know.
Power of Play is also working to reach children even on their first interaction with healthcare professionals, be it by ambulance or in the doctor’s office.