Sesame Street's Cookie Monster and Elmo visit Josey Wells, 4, at Niswonger Children's Hospital on Monday. (Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
The normally quiet halls of Niswonger Children’s Hospital quickly filled with gasps and giggles Monday afternoon as two celebrities from the longstanding TV program “Sesame Steet” visited with patients.
Taking it easy before the start of their two scheduled performances of “Sesame Street Live: Can’t Stop Singing” at Freedom Hall Civic Center today, Elmo and Cookie Monster strutted down the hospital hallway, stopping at each open door to wave and earn a smile from the kids and their families.
One patient, Tyler Smith, 5, who had been admitted to the hospital Saturday with walking pneumonia, was on his way out the door when the life-size “Sesame Street” icons came to say hello.
Smith, much shorter than the bright blue and red characters, beamed with excitement as Elmo and Cookie Monster danced around his room.
His mother, Brenda Bentley, said seeing the Sesame Street stars interact with her son was a great way to be discharged from the hospital.
“He’s been a really sick little boy,” Bentley said. “He was excited to see the Cookie Monster and Elmo. It was awesome. I took a lot of pictures. It was kind of like a ‘Congratulations, you’re getting better’ type of thing. It was really awesome that they came in to see him. That was so cool.”
She said Smith had low oxygen levels and a high fever during his bout with walking pneumonia, but said he was doing much better and was excited to go home Monday.
“You would never know he was sick now,” Bentley said. “The staff has been wonderful, they really have. They’ve taken excellent care of him and me. It’s nice to have a children’s hospital ... where they’re used to dealing with kids instead of adults.”
Joanna Swinehart, manager of children’s health advocacy and communications at the Niswonger Children’s Hospital, said this is the third year Elmo and Cookie Monster have come to visit patients in the hospital and said it’s just as exciting for the staff, as it is the kids.
“Once a year, usually when they’re in town, they’ll give us a call and ask if we have some patients that would want to have a visit and, of course, we always want them to come see us,” Swinehart said. “We’ve already had so many kids that their days have just been brightened with this visit. It’s good for patients (and) it’s good for our team members. From team member morale to just our patient experience ... it lifts (up) everyone.”
“Sesame Street Live: Can’t Stop Singing” will be performed at Freedom Hall today at 10:30 a.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.johnsoncitytn.org/freedomhall/.