Someone You Should Know: Bismarck couple dedicates nonprofit to comforting pediatric patients

Someone You Should Know

After a Bismarck family endured a medical scare with their 1-year-old, they found solace in familiar toys and books at an out-of-state hospital.

Since then, they’ve worked to offer the same comfort to families in North Dakota.

Brian and Sarah Dahl both work or have worked in healthcare. Sarah is a former project manager at a children’s hospital and Brian is an orthopedic surgeon.

While their backgrounds have helped in starting their own non-profit, it was a scary experience back in 2017 that led to it.

Their 13-month-old Vivia had a seizure, took a life-flight to a facility out of state and ultimately needed an emergency craniotomy.

“It was the pediatric unit playroom where I could go and pull books off of their shelves that we had at home on our shelf. Being able to read her those stories with the familiarity of a book she already knows in an unfamiliar situation was really nice,” said Sarah.

Vivia has since recovered and her parents founded Power of Play in Bismarck.

“It’s really neat to see how she still remembers some of the toys that she played with and when we bring these toys to others in the community, she feels like she’s a big part of it,” said Brian. “It’s not only part of her recovery, but part of her passing that story onto others.”

The mission is simple — to offer pediatric patients comfort through play.

It provides toys, stuffed animals and books to both hospitals in Bismarck and has expanded to clinics and surgery centers.

Power of Play started with the youngest of patients and has since grown.

“Then [ages] five to 10, 10 to 12, 13. Those kids sometimes just need a bit of a distraction to take their mind off the procedure, whatever it is,” Brian explained.

Being on both sides of medical care, they understand how helpful it is for families to have access to items that make their kids feel safe.

Brian said, “Even though I specialize in total hips and total knees, I still do a lot of pediatric work and trauma so I interact with these kids that are going through medical problems not infrequently, and it’s fun to see that we have a way to help them outside of just our regular medical care.”

“It helps them with their recovery,” added Sarah, “it helps healthcare workers care for them, it helps healthcare workers to relate with them when they’re playing and a lot of times 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 to the supportive response it’s gotten so far.

“Our community is so great,” said Brian. “This is why we came back to North Dakota, this is why it’s the greatest state in the country. The community has helped us. Everyone loves the idea of elevating healthcare in this way. So, it’s been profound for me to see the community step forward in this way and help support a charity like this.”

Sarah added, “We do have a very generous community. I’m very grateful for that.”

Still, they can do more with the help of others. People can donate money or items. Their website has an Amazon wish list that will help Power of Play 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,” said Sarah.

With the goal of helping pediatric patients in Bismarck and possibly all over the Peace Garden State…Brian and Sarah Dahl are People You Should Know.

Power of Play is also working to be able to reach kids even at their first interaction with healthcare professionals, whether it be by ambulance or in the doctor’s office.

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