Creative “Magic Tricks” Reduce Need to Sedate Kids for Radiation Treatment

Wednesday, Jan 9 2019

Until recently, kids in Israel with cancer were almost always sedated for radiation treatment. At the Hadassah Medical Organization, however, that is changing.

Since August, a dozen sick children have undergone radiation without sedation. “If children aren’t sedated in certain other countries, why should the situation be any different here?” asked Emuna Steimetz, a teacher at the Hadassah School for Sick Children. “If we can save sick kids from the negative side effects that come with sedation, we should,” she said.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Steimetz immigrated to Israel in 1973. An engineer by training, she found her vocation teaching science. “It’s a tough subject to teach young kids, so I developed a box of ‘magic tricks’ based on scientific principles to keep students interested,” she said.

After a work accident, Steimetz found herself a patient at Hadassah Hospital. For almost three months, she underwent various procedures and rehabilitation. “My surgeon told me that if I wanted to fully recover, I had to go back to work,” she said.

Five years ago, she began volunteering at Hadassah’s School for Sick Children, which operates within all ten pediatric departments on both the Ein Kerem and Mount Scopus campuses. All classes include a diverse set of students of different ages from varied backgrounds, like in the old one-room schoolhouses.

Now Steimetz is using her box of magic tricks once again to teach sick kids science. Dr. Gal Goldstein, Head of the Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Department, knew the children were unhappy about radiation therapy and uncooperative when it came time for treatment, so he turned to Steimetz. He asked her to develop a way to help kids cope with the radiation treatments. Children with cancer typically undergo 30, five-minute sessions of radiation. “Knowledge has proven to reduce fear, even among such young patients,” explained Steimetz, “so I knew that with the right educational tools, we could help these kids.”

Steimetz decided she could show the children little red dots of “‘tumor” Playdoh on a green ball. “Then I would give the kids a small laser flashlight and tell them to point the beam at the red dot to eliminate the cancer,” she explained. “When I move the Playdoh, they would understand why it’s so important to stay still during radiation.”

Steimetz also approached Varian Medical Systems and asked for a model of the equipment used for radiation treatment. She received a dollhouse-sized model, via express post. Steimetz then commissioned a studio that reproduces art for museums to create a larger model of the radiation therapy delivery device. “The studio was so excited about making something that would help sick kids that they went beyond our requests and included more details on the model machine,” said Steimetz. This realistic model now prepares the children for treatment.

In addition, Steimetz found kids’ books about radiation in Hebrew and Arabic to read to the children. “With these tools, we can help kids with cancer understand what will happen to them,” she noted. This knowledge enables the kids to cooperate and reduces the need for sedation.”

Recently, one of the radiation technicians sought Steimetz out to tell her that a challenged nine-year-old was one of the most prepared patients she’s had and cooperated throughout the treatment. “That’s all the reward I need,” Steimetz said.

Learn more about the Hadassah Medical Organization.


No comments yet.
First Name
Enter this word:

Related Stories


Wednesday, Jan 16 2019

Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem Receives Award for Premature Babies

Our Hadassah stars! The staff at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem was awarded the “Outstanding Pagination” Award in the Ministry of Health’s 2018 Star Program.


Monday, Jan 14 2019

When Arms Don’t Match: Hadassah Surgeon Repairs Complex Long-term Injury

Oshry was two years old when his father broke his arm the first time. The second time, social services got involved.


Monday, Jan 7 2019

From Surviving a Terror Attack to the Birth of a New Baby

Three and a half years ago, Inbar and Ori Azrak were returning from a romantic weekend in Jerusalem when a terrorist threw a Molotov cocktail into their car.


Monday, Jan 7 2019

Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem Reinvents Its Pediatric Oncology Department

You would not expect a pediatric oncology department to be a laughter-filled place. But nurse Sarit David relates that in the newly reinvented Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Department at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, people laugh a lot. “During the horrible times,” she says, “there are many light moments.”


Donation Questions


(800) 928-0685

Membership Questions


(800) 664-5646

Missions Department


(800) 237-1517

Contact Us

40 Wall Street

New York, NY 10005


More ›

Show More