It may seem an unlikely description of M’s week-long stay at GOSH, but we did end up having a week that was filled with fun and not just fear. I had dreaded the tedium of being confined to the ward and had managed to pull together some games and treats to see us both through. What I hadn’t anticipated were the events and activities that would be “on tap” at GOSH itself.
Sadly M didn’t manage to get to the first of these opportunities as we were battling the interminable wait to get him admitted onto the ward on Monday morning and the rest of the week were barely able to leave his bed or the ward. However, the week we were there was celebrating “50 years of National Play in Hospital”. It recognised the hard work regularly put in by fully trained play workers, who go into the hospital setting and entertain the children who have been admitted. The launch on the Monday included face-painting, magic shows and other entertainers to give that day’s visitors an escape from the often frightening reality of being in hospital. You can read more about this special week here.
Tuesday’s adventure started with a visit at 6.45pm from the leaders of the GOSH Scouts and Guides group. They had avoided disappointment by checking with the ward nurses whether there were any children that would be able to go to the weekly Scout meeting, either on their own or accompanied by their parent. They appeared at the curtains to M’s cubicle and invited him along for an hour of creativity and socialising. He refused point-blank to allow me to go with him and merrily trotted off with another child from the ward – disconnected from his drip and in a state of excitement to be escaping.
Just after 8pm he re-appeared, clutching a treasure box, leaf bracelet, sheets of word-searches, puzzles and colouring, and his new most treasured possession – his first Scouts badge. M was filled with stories of the 10 other children he’d been with, what they’d been up to and, most importantly for him, the fact that several of the others had also had NG-tubes and the news that one little girl was even “drinking her milk through it, Mummy!” Scouts is a new experience for M, but the opportunity to not stand out from the crowd because of his tube and his allergies was one he couldn’t have missed and he would have loved to have stayed another week in hospital just to go to the next meeting!
Treats number 3 and 4 both arrived on Wednesday. The first was the surprise arrival of a parcel from M’s godmother, Auntie L. She had packed a “Bored box” with an array of treats to satisfy any small boy – Top Trumps cards, a Lego Star Wars set, a magic set, 3 packs of Angry birds trading cards, a pack of silly putty and other bits and pieces were hidden inside. M didn’t know where to start, but slowly and surely he made his way through the box, which kept him occupied not just for the rest of the week, but for days afterwards too. Along with the box, M also received several Get Well cards from friends and family, which brightened his day as he loves to receive post and often moans that nothing ever drops through the door at home for him.
The final surprise for the week, was a visit from Dr Mattie, a clown doctor from the Theodora Children’s Trust. The use of Giggle Doctors in Children’s hospitals has come under debate many times, including recently in an article published by The Guardian newspaper. Whilst it cannot be denied that some children and adults are frightened by clowns – indeed, one of M’s nurses commented that the Clown doctors gave her nightmares – they cheered M’s day. M wasn’t amused by their jokes and he wasn’t that interested in the “Spot the difference” he was given, but he waited anxiously to check that Dr Mattie would stop and chat and not miss him out of his rounds, and was fascinated by the unbreakable bubbles that clung to every surface and constantly checked to see just how long those bubbles would last. Perhaps that old adage is true and laughter really is the best medicine.