The PEZ lady of EvergreenHealth Medical Center: Dispensing a fun, calming distraction

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KIRKLAND, Wash. -- A technician at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland has built up a 20-year collection of PEZ candy dispensers, which she proudly displays at the hospital and which she believes acts as a "natural tranquilizer" for patients about to get an injection or some other unpleasant test.

"I've been collecting PEZ for at least 20 years," said Jennifer Whiteley, a nuclear medicine technician at EvergreenHealth, as she pointed to a cabinet containing the dispensers. "Inspector Clouseau and The Pink Panther came from Canada."

So how did she get into collecting the dispensers?

"I enjoy the candy. I've always loved the candy. Incidentally, you always get a PEZ dispenser when you buy the PEZ candy. So I would just throw it off to the side. And after a while, they took on a life of their own and they just accumulated and accumulated. So I thought maybe I'll bring a little bit into work..."

Whiteley said her "prize collection" are all the Star Wars characters -- Hans Solo, Rey, and many others.

"The patients love it, she said. "We have them sit here for the injections ... when they (instinctively) look away, they're looking at the PEZ display."

She said some patients will come back maybe two weeks or a month later and say, "I found you a Batman!"

"I think it is a natural tranquilizer, gives people something else to focus on instead of the test, and the uncertainty of the test, she said.

By the way, according to the company, PEZ candy was invented in Vienna, Austria, by Eduard Haas IIII as an alternative to smoking. The name PEZ comes from the German word for peppermint, “PfeffErminZ” taking the P from the first letter, E from the middle and Z from the last letter to form the word PEZ. In 1952, PEZ came to the United States. In 1973, PEZ built the first candy manufacturing facility in Orange, Conn.

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