For Josh, a golden retriever, surgery is a daunting experience. He has questions about what will happen to him at the hospital, if he will be left alone at any point, and how long his recovery will take. Truth be told, Josh is nervous – maybe even a little bit scared.
Many children around the world have the same concerns and questions, which is why Randy Lange, DVM, owner of AAHA-accredited Lange Animal Hospital in Tennessee, wrote “I’ll be O.K,” a book about Josh and his experience with abdominal surgery.
Although Lange believes the book appeals to children of all ages, it is written for children age three to 10 and follows Josh through testing, diagnosis, and surgery at Dr. Rick’s Animal Hospital. Although the story focuses on Josh, Lange used phrases that children will hear at human hospitals so that they will feel prepared for surgery.
“I wanted to retain the realism so that they would not find surgery so traumatic,” Lange said. “When my daughter had her tonsils out, I went to the library and to book stores looking for something that would alleviate her fears, but I couldn’t find anything that was warm and uplifting,” Lange explained. “Doctors and nurses told us that the surgery was ‘routine,’ but there’s nothing routine about it if you’re a nine-year-old.”
While he was at the hospital, waiting for Jessica to come out of surgery, Lange noticed several children who were in hospital rooms without family or friends. Nurses told him that many single parents are unable to stay with their children after surgery, which prompted him to add a plush toy named Josh to the book, which is now sold as a kit, so that children would have a friend to take to the hospital with them.
Doctors and nurses in human hospitals have allowed Josh to accompany child patients into x-ray rooms and they let him wait in recovery rooms. “They immediately have a soul mate,” Lange said.
The veterinarian, who always dreamt of writing a book, completed his first children’s story featuring Josh in 1997 and has sold 35,000 copies to veterinary clinics, non-profit groups, and human hospitals around the world. His goal is to sell one million copies of the kit, which includes the book and toy in a cardboard doghouse. A donation of $5 from every kit sale goes to the Children’s Miracle Network.
Lange has since completed two sequels to “I’ll be O.K” that feature Josh in different circumstances. Art for the books is produced by Betsy Lesher, who uses stamp art to create unique drawings of the characters. “Children don’t usually color within the lines, and Betsy’s artwork is similar to that philosophy,” Lange said. “It’s phenomenal.”
For the last 12 years, Lange has worked with Doug Lesher to market and sell the books through a company known as Josh and Friends. The two describe themselves as “Two Dads and a Dog who simply want to help kids.”
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 2 Issue 2, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.