Teen raises money for Buzzy device to ease pain for kids with cancer

Credit: Courtesy of Elizabeth McCall

Credit: Courtesy of Elizabeth McCall

Buzzy is a bee every kid can love.

Instead of stinging, this bee takes the ouchies out of shots, IVs, and other needle pokes by “buzzing” near the injection site.

The vibrating pain management tool with its blue ice-pack wings is well-loved by clinicians and patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, especially in the hospital’s Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, where kids get a lot of blood draws and IVs for infusions.

“Buzzies are a great way to diminish the pain (children) are experiencing during these procedures, and this lessens their anxiety during their appointments,” said Emma Buyarski, a program coordinator over hematology and sickle cell anemia for the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation.

Credit: courtesy of Lucy Goldberg

Credit: courtesy of Lucy Goldberg

Buzzies, however, are in short supply at Children’s. And they are expensive at $150 each and not included in the hospital’s budget. One of the most immediate needs is to raise funds to stock more for the Aflac Center, said Buyarski.

When she laid out the need, a Sandy Springs teenager was the first to volunteer and offer to help with in-kind donations.

Seventeen-year-old Elizabeth McCall set up a GoFundMe platform to raise $2,500 for the purchase of 50 Buzzy kits for the center. She’s fast approaching her goal in the fundraiser that she is doing by herself; it’s not part of a school or community project.

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

A senior at Marist High School, Elizabeth enjoys studying science and medicine and is planning to major in pre-med in college. She’s also passionate about helping children as they fight cancer or other blood disorders.

“Originally, I wanted to offer wigs and costumes to the kids,” she said. “But then, I was thinking, this is stuff I want to do, but what is the real need?”

She says the bee’s cartoonish features make it fun for kids and distract them from the medical procedure. Elizabeth said she wants to “help (kids) feel better when they get needed injections and IVs.”

Buzzy was developed in 2011 by Atlanta emergency pediatrician Dr. Amy Baxter to help children overcome their fear of needles. The massager device naturally and quickly minimizes sharp pain (from 50-80%) from needle sticks like blood draws and finger pricks. Baxter’s research showed that the vibrating movement and cold temperature combine to replace most of the pain.

Baxter is also a clinical associate professor at Augusta University, Medical College of Georgia, and the founder and CEO of Pain Care Labs.

The product was promoted on the Shark Tank television show but was not selected for funding. However, it is now widely used by children and adults who are needle averse, and it’s seen in medical practices, vaccination clinics, hospitals and dental practices.

Credit: Courtesy of Lucy Goldberg

Credit: Courtesy of Lucy Goldberg

Child Life Specialist Lucy Goldberg said she had much success using the device, especially with children undergoing chemical treatments or blood withdrawals and getting multiple injections several times a week. She works in outpatient oncology, supporting young patients with therapeutic activities during their treatments.

“By using the Buzzies, they say they barely feel it at all, and it takes that scary part away from them,” she said.

Ideally, one of the reusable devices would be readily available throughout Children’s. But at Scottish Rite, only the Aflac Center and a few in-hospital units have them available. It’s not uncommon for nurses in other areas of the hospital to call the clinic and ask to borrow a Buzzy Bee for a child who is nervous about a needle injection, Goldberg said.

Some families at the hospital have purchased their own Buzzy to have at home for pediatric visits for vaccinations and COVID-19 shots.

Goldberg said the Aflac Center would like to have a stockpile of Buzzies and be able to give some away to families who can’t afford to purchase one. She said some children have to do their injections at home and would benefit from the distraction of Buzzy to cope with the constant needle pokes.

“It’s also great to think that we’ll have a little bit more so that other units in the hospital could start using them too,” she said, “and more kids wouldn’t have to experience the sharp pain they might feel from getting a poke.”


Donations can be made on the GoFundMe page titled Help Donate to Give Children at CHOA Buzzies!, organized by Elizabeth McCall

Donations go directly to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation. To know more: www.choa.org/give/about-us