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Lego model takes the scare out the scan for children needing MRI

29 Oct 2022 3 minute read
Barry Spedding with paediatrics matron Sarah James (left) and play coordinator Lisa Morgan, image by SBUHB

Radiography staff at Morriston hospital have hit upon a novel way to allay the fears of young patients and help them understand the process if they need to have an MRI scan

An intricate Lego model has been created of an MRI machine and a patient, along with models of two actual members of staff to help children feel more at ease ahead of what can be a scary experience.

The idea came about after superintendent radiographer Barry Spedding spotted an article in a clinical publication which highlighted research that Lego had done on the benefits of using models to explain the procedure to children.

Although the company had made some of them, they were all already in use in clinical settings around the world.

Lego enthusiast Chris Mardon came to the rescue when his mother Bethan, who works in the department, mentioned what they were looking for.

Chris set about sourcing the hundreds of parts and creating the model, after downloading online instructions and plans. The model has now been presented to staff on the children’s ward.

Play coordinator Lisa Morgan explained: “An MRI scan can be a scary thing for children, especially if they’re having it while they are awake.

“We will use the model to show them the machine, so they know what it looks like. We can play some sounds from YouTube so they have a sense of what it will sound like as well.

“Even if they will be having a general anaesthetic, they still like to know what they’re having done and what the machine looks like, just so they can understand more about it.”


Barry Spedding said: “Lego had done research showing that the models helped children prepare for an MRI scan as it’s normally quite an unsettling experience for them.

“There were 600 models available but unfortunately they had all been given out worldwide. So we were a little bit disappointed.

“But lo and behold, after a chance conversation, it turned out that Chris was prepared to source and build the model for us.”

Like millions worldwide, Chris, aged 40, used to play with Lego when he was a youngster.

“I picked it up again a couple of years ago when I found a set I liked, a DeLorean from Back to the Future,” he said. “I then started collecting different sets. I find it helps with my anxiety – it’s very therapeutic.

“I’m very pleased with it. It came out a lot more accurately than I thought it would, working off a PDF.

“It’s the most ambitious thing I’ve done and, because of who I was doing it for, the children in the hospital, I wanted to get it right.

“I read that having an MRI can make them anxious. I have two young nieces and I thought that, if it was them, I’d want them to feel at ease.”

As well as an intricately detailed MRI machine, the set features a young patient having a scan. It also includes tiny Lego versions of Barry and his diagnostic radiographer colleague, Mari Harris.

Barry is more than a little happy with the finished model. “It’s absolutely perfect,” he said. “When you compare what Chris has made with the photograph of the original in Rad, it’s spot on.”

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