Keeping a child's spirits up while checking her heart

Laughing Through the Pain

At first glance, Richard Lasseigne, MD, seems more like a comedian than a pediatrician as he riffs while examining 5-year-old Bella Walton, who was brought to the ER for chest pains. With his fingertips on her head, he comments grandly that yes, her head is still intact. “And it’s big!” he says, eliciting a smile as his examination proceeds.

Pressing fingers to her stomach, he says, “I feel some chicken nuggets in there,” which prompts a bigger smile.

When he listens through a stethoscope to her chest he assures, “Well, your heart is still beating,” and she smiles again.

The ER nurses know Dr. Lasseigne’s shtick well, which he deftly uses to relax and distract his young patients so he can examine and treat them. It’s a key aspect of providing kid-friendly care.

“We’re the only ER in Baton Rouge with child life specialists,” Prentice said. “Children’s emergency medicine is a lot different for kids today because we really can make them feel more comfortable and relaxed.”

Bella was taken to the ER on this day following a bout with a strep throat infection. Just when mom Julie Connor thought she’d shaken it, Bella threw up a few times. When Bella said her chest was hurting, Julie and Bella’s dad, Derrick Davis, took her to the ER.

Dr. Lasseigne concludes that Bella has a simple condition: strained chest muscles from all that throwing up. After some medicine to ease the pain, Bella will be discharged later that night.

Dr. Lasseigne goes in for one last smile. “Do you feel better now?” Bella shakes her head no.

“What if you had a popsicle?” he asks.

She nods and smiles sheepishly.

NEXT: Support staff helps set this ER apart