Kids at Shriners hospital get to ‘operate’ on pumpkins for Halloween

Patients at Shriners Hospitals for Children donned surgical aprons over their Halloween costumes this morning to perform the Great Pumpkin Surgery, the 11th annual event put on by the hospital school to help children with their math skills.

Margaret Kugler, educational and vocational services coordinator at Shriners, said their class gets two pumpkins every year and the kids guess the weight, circumference and number of seeds. “But as the pumpkins got bigger, we realized we needed professional help,” she said.

Dr. Michelle James, chief of orthopedics, and Dr. Tina Palmieri, assistant chief of burns, led the kids as they administered anesthetic and pain medication to the two 50-pound pumpkins. The surgeons then cut open the tops of the pumpkins and tipped them over as the kids leaned in and pulled out handfuls of goopy seeds.

“It’s a way for the surgeons to interact with the kids and the kids to see surgery in a less scary light,” Kugler said.

Martino Humberto Leyva Chable, 11, who wants to be a sixth-grade teacher when he grows up, said the surgery was fun. “It was good practice and a good experience to saw open the pumpkin and count the seeds.”

Molly Sullivan: 916-321-1176, @SullivanMollyM