Written by Jonathan Wojcik

Children's Medical Pals

We've gone over a lot of disease-based characters this season, but the world of anti-disease propaganda has its own share of kooky spooks. Just look at this wonderful syringe mosquito; this pamphlet is distributed by my very own local hospital and discount pharmacy, warning readers to responsibly and safely dispose of used sharps, and it's a perfect example of the strange duality of medical cartoon characters; we want children to be wary of mysterious needles, right? So of course we portray one as a grouchy, biting insect with a big, menacing metal proboscis, something anybody who isn't me would immediately want to stay well away from.

....Trouble is, we also want children to get their shots and blood tests without fear, so you can also find a wealth of stock art depicting syringes as happy, friendly characters, like this one, with its entirely non-threatening gigantic hypodermic needle penis. So when exactly does a benevolent syringe-person cross over into a bloodthirsty, vampiric, glass and metal insect? I guess as soon as it's used once and discarded. These beings give their lives to serve a single function, a single time, knowing that they must be contained and destroyed or metamorphose into a monster, threatening the safety of the same people they were born to help. How is this guy even smiling? Does ejaculating a vaccine into someone's bloodstream just feel good enough to be worth the existential nightmare of his existence?

I'd be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to recall an old Bogleech favorite, the creatures I dubbed Girringes off a set of medical scrubs I spotted in Goodwill. I don't know why I didn't buy them. Even having no use for medical scrubs, I really should have taken these home. I could have done something with them, right? There was no attempt at all to make these monstrosities look innocent or comforting. There was no attempt to really give them any personality. They're faceless. They're faceless, huge syringes that just happen to have giraffe bodies stuck to them. Why even giraffes? Because they have long necks, and a syringe is also an elongate object? Is that really it? That's a tenuous connection at best. This could have been any animal at all. A dog, an elephant, a fish, they all would have made roughly equal sense to be decapitated and given a hypodermic needle for a head.

Moving on from needles, let's talk about these godforsaken animal medicine spoons. I vividly remember having one of these as a child. It was an alligator, but nothing like the alligator offered here, and nowhere near as ghoulish as this obscene dog-beast, with its bulging, expressionless eyeballs and toilet-like underbite, a creature designed by a hateful god to vomit down the throat of an unwilling child.

When I was just a wee little ingrate, tasting medicine felt like a fate worse than death. It was a harrowing ordeal, every single time. My parents had to chase me, and sometimes wrap me up in a blanket up to my neck, actually force-feeding me the only thing that might have been keeping me alive as my fevers surpassed a hundred degrees. I learned to fear that alligator, but had it been this piss-colored jelly-hound attempting to puke in my mouth, the nightmares might be plagueing me to this day.

Maybe it would have gone a little easier if I could have been given all my medication in gaseous form; then I wouldn't need to drink bile out of a plastic animal's urinal-shaped face. I'd just need to breathe through a ghostly face with a few haphazard cartoon features...some more or less haphazard than others.

Look at this. I shit you not, this mask is marketed as a "seal." I didn't know just glueing a pair of stock human eyes to something sort of knob-shaped was all that qualified as a "seal." Like the Girringes, this could have been anything at all. I could just as easily believe this was supposed to represent a turtle, a donkey or a wombat.

Some of these products aren't even for the benefit of the children who have to use them. The child on this package of "FEVER BUGZ" feels a little too young to really understand and appreciate that its temperature is being read by a stylized moth. A stylized moth with an eager, chilling stare on its black, shadowy face. "The fever is rising" the bugz whisper, still smiling. "Your child is gravely ill" they hiss, eyes widening with hungered anticipation.

Would anything like this have actually made you feel better as a kid? You're already sick. You already feel like shit, and now a tiny elephant wants to shove his entire cold, hard, disgusting nose into your ear canal. Wonderful.

The same exact elephant even comes as a bulb syringe. Do you know what they do with these? You don't want to, but I'll tell you anyway. These have a variety of uses, but one of them is to suction the snot out of a baby's sinuses, since they're too little to understand how to blow their nose. I throw up in my mouth a little even thinking hard enough about this to explain it, and it's still so much worse to personify it as some sort of fat, limbless animal delighted to be snorting baby phlegm.

They can also be used to unclog infected ear canals of their syrupy wax and pus gumbo.

I feel like I also need to say something about the common "blood drive" mascot. There are many variations on this character. All of them are just huge droplets of human blood with arms, legs and facial features. This one isn't so much a children's character, since we don't really force children to donate blood, but a living giant blood-glob is still pretty alarming. If you have to be morbid anyway, why not a goofy vampire, like The Count on Sesame Street? Too supernatural? How about a cutesy vampire bat?

The very last thing we're going to talk about here is at once one of the most unsettling and the most heartwarming. This guy goes by the name Rabbit Ray, and he's actually a character designed with the input of more than 150 actual children. A great deal of care was put into making Ray genuinely cute, sweet and harmless looking in the eyes of kids, and he even has a giant blood cell for a friend! It's just...it's still kind of a little eerie that you split him open to reveal a bunch of medical tools. Not to mention the visible guts.

The idea is that Rabbit Ray can be used to demonstrate medical procedures, explain how they work, and even let kids practice them on Ray himself, their own "patient." You can read an article about it here, and it's all part of a truly heartfelt effort to make invasive, painful medical procedures a little less frightening to children.

There's still no eliminating that little twinge of horror, though.


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