Close Print View Issue

Droids and Stormtroopers invade the Pediatric Unit

A green minivan pulled up to the front entrance of Eastern Maine Medical Center transporting unusual cargo. Paul Bussiere hopped out of his van, popped the hatchback, and pulled out two giant storage tubs full of electronics. Strapped down in the back of the vehicle was a headless R2-D2 replica droid that is nearly impossible to distinguish from the original. “There’s a dent right there, R2 is taking a pounding through all the movies,” Paul explained as he checked out his creation with the critical eye of a meticulous inventor. It’s his mission to bring smiles to children’s faces. He not only shows up at movie theaters with his replica droid, but at hospitals too. He asked for help unloading the 200-pound body section of the replica R2-D2. Then he brought it to a corner of the lobby at Eastern Maine Medical Center to begin assembling it.

Once the unit was entirely assembled, it sprang to life. It chirped and buzzed, lights flashed, and then it rolled towards the elevator as Paul guided it by remote control. In the Pediatric Unit on the eighth floor, Nate Olson had no idea what was coming. The 10-year old was at Eastern Maine Medical Center recovering from a knee injury. As R2-D2 came rolling in, Nate couldn’t help but smile. “He’s definitely cool,” said Nate, “It looks like the real R2.”

DSC_0040.JPGBetsy Philbrick,CCLS, a child life specialist at Eastern Maine Medical Center, helped coordinate the visit. “Part of what we do is to try and make it easier for a child to be in a hospital setting,” she said. “That includes supporting children through medical procedures and sometimes it can even include assisting with visits from special guests like R2-D2.” Paul knows how to play to the crowd. He spun R2-D2’s head around, played sound effects and music, and flashed lights. A steady flow of staff and patients crowded around to take pictures. “It’s awesome because the last thing they’re expecting to see is R2-D2 showing up. So, the reactions are a lot of fun to watch, not only from the patients but also from the staff,” Paul said.

Paul’s R2-D2 wasn’t the only visitor from a distant galaxy far far away. Josh Sanders who is an employee in Information Systems at Eastern Maine Medical Center also decided to suit up in his replica Stormtrooper costume and get in on the fun. He and Paul are neighbors and often attend the same events. “Feel better or feel the wrath of the dark side,” Josh joked as he tried to stay in character. “Join the empire; we have cookies,” he said. Stormtrooper Josh also posed for photos with some of the kids on the pediatric ward.

Both Josh and Paul attended the premiere of the latest installment of the Star Wars Franchise The Last Jedi, which was released in theaters last week. Paul and his R2-D2 spent the night posing for photographs and accepted donations for the EMHS Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. All in a day’s work for a little droid that brings smiles wherever it goes.