Two weeks in hospital is long enough to challenge the sanity of any adult, let alone that of an 8-year-old who is used to being on the go all the time. As well as his daily visits to the hospital school, M was fortunate enough to have a number of other activities to take part in, which helped wile away the ever-lengthening hours. I don’t know how many of these same opportunities, or others like them, are available at children’s hospitals across the country, but this is a selection of some of those M chose to do during his stay at GOSH:
Pets as Therapy – We were lucky enough to have 3 separate visits from 2 of the amazing “Pets as Therapy” dogs, Molly and Woof. These charming animals are specially chosen for their gentle manner and make regular visits into hospitals, care homes and special needs schools to bring a great deal of comfort and love to those in the greatest of need. I wrote a blog post not so long ago about just how much calm and comfort M draws from our cats at home and I saw the same things happening as he was able to pet and cuddle both dogs in his own space in hospital. G was lucky enough to also have the chance to meet and fuss Molly as she visited on both Saturdays whilst Mike and G were visiting, and both children were encouraged to offer her treats for her patient behaviour when she was with them.
Scouts – The visit to the 17th Holborn Scouts and Guides at Great Ormond Street Hospital was one of the highlights of M’s last hospital stay in 2013 and since finding out he was due another admission, he had talked of little else. His biggest disappointment was that he was admitted on a Wednesday as Scouts meet every Tuesday evening and he had to wait a whole week before he could go again. During the evening, they provide a range of different crafts and games which are tailored for the differing ages and needs of the children attending that week and even reward regular attendance, an important boost for those children who are there on long-term admissions. Sadly, M only managed to make one meeting again this year, but is already asking when he can go to Scouts again!
Saturday Club – Every Saturday afternoon, the activity centre (located next door to the school) is opened to patients and their siblings and friends for a couple of hours of crafts, games and some much-needed time together, away from the constraints of the ward. On our first Saturday in hospital, M wasn’t keen on venturing too far from his bed, but the arrival of 2 of the Saturday club play volunteers, who engaged him and G in some riotous games of “Extreme Uno” as well as giant snakes and ladders, convinced him to change his mind. By week 2, both G and M were chomping at the bit to join in the fun and whilst the staff there helped my 2 celebrate G’s 11th birthday with some rather nifty face-painting, an elegant birthday crown and Christmas crafts galore, Mike and I were able to escape for a sneaky 45 minute catch-up over coffee and cake in the hospital restaurant.
ReadWell book trolley – This was a treat we almost missed during our first week as the trolley came round as we were enjoying the ballet at the Royal Opera House, but thanks to some near-perfect timing, we stepped out of the lift just as the trolley was about to leave the ward. M was able to choose from the wide selection of books displayed on the trolley and took great pleasure in being able to spend some time before deciding on an author we had not come across before. To his absolute delight, not only did he have a free choice of books, but he also got to keep the books he picked out and he has enjoyed reading them since we got back home. M also had the chance to create his own story with one of the ReadWell workers, who came into the school and acted as scribe as he weaved his adventurous tale of aliens visiting earth.
Ward Playroom – Whilst this was not the biggest room in the world, it held a vast array of games and activities to entertain the most particular of children. M played on the Wii, found new board games to master and was able to borrow a DVD player and DVDs to watch over the weekends. We made Christmas decorations, painted pictures, experimented with creating circuits with a science kit and M even decorated a ceramic money-box as part of his Christmas present to G.
Magic – As well as a fleeting hello to the Clown doctors as we passed them in the ward corridor, one afternoon was brightened by the promise of a visiting magician. M sat enthralled with a small group of his new hospital friends as this talented gentleman performed one awe-inspiring illusion after another. He invited both children and parents alike to participate in some of the tricks and wowed us with his skills. He listened as the children asked him questions about what he was doing and even watched M perform a rope trick of his very own. My Dynamo-wannabee loved every moment of the show and dissected the tricks at length afterwards, trying to work out the secret of how they’d be done.
Post – Last, but not least is an activity that had nothing to do with GOSH itself, but everything to do with the amazingly thoughtful family and friends who were determined to bring a little cheer to our dreary corner of the long-term gastro ward. Messages came from around the world – Canada, Madeira and across the UK – and each was special in its own way. M received get well cards, postcards, books, stickers, games and other gifts that were guaranteed to entertain him day or night. We decorated his bed space with the cards and added a Christmasy feel with the decorations that we had made in the playroom. Knowing that people were thinking of us, loving us and sending us get well wishes and prayers sustained us both during the most difficult moments of the admission and brought some much-needed sunshine on the darkest days. From the Christmas card from M’s class at school, to 2 pages of messages from Mike’s cousin and her friends and colleagues in Calgary; from cards and presents from our friends at church, to a card from the lovely members of my choir; and the 2 extra-special gifts of Angry Birds Jenga from our fabulous FABED family and signed photos and scrubs for both G and M from Holby City, courtesy of Simon Harper, my man at the BBC; all the mail was gratefully received and enjoyed hugely by us both.