“The playroom was a refuge during a challenging time.”

12 January 2022

“The playroom was a refuge during a challenging time.”
Three-year-old Julia* was born at St Mary’s Hospital with situs inversus – a condition where the major organs are altered from their usual positions. Julia lives with a malrotation of her stomach which can cause issues with digestion.

This summer, Julia was admitted to the Great Western Ward at St Mary’s Hospital as there were issues with her stomach. Unfortunately, she was kept on the ward longer than anticipated.

“It was a frightening experience. She had three sets of tubes and we didn’t know what was going to happen. As she was so young, communicating what was happening with her was difficult.” Richard*, Julia’s father, said.

During this challenging time, the family found comfort and hope in the play team at St Mary’s Hospital. Healthcare play specialists use toys and equipment to help enhance a child’s recovery. They work with occupational therapists and physiotherapists to provide the best care and support for a child in hospital.

“The playroom was an absolute refuge during a challenging time and an incredibly important part in her recovery."

Richard, Julia's dad

Richard credits play specialist Mikki Huckett with making Julia’s time on the ward the best it could be.

Richard said: “The playroom was an absolute refuge during a challenging time and an incredibly important part in her recovery. Play sessions with Mikki became the highlight of our day – Julia always had a big smile on her face when she was playing.”

While Julia was largely bed-bound, it was crucial to her recovery to move around for short periods at a time. The play team were particularly helpful in adapting activities to fit her needs - play activities ranging from syringe painting, to singing and modelling clay.

“The range of activities that they organised was amazing - we ended up redecorating our ward with just Julia’s paintings!” Richard said.

"Having just a little bit of normality was essential for us. We could take ten minutes out and grab a cup of tea and know she was safe and having fun.”

Richard, Julia's dad

Hospitals can be a frightening place for young children – a sterile environment surrounded by clinical equipment and people they don’t know. The playroom is a haven for children where they can escape from medical procedures and interventions and experience the comfort of play.

Richard said: “The playroom is an oasis from scary things happening in the hospital. It was a real gift.”

Having space for a child to play is not only crucial for their recovery – but also plays a major part in supporting the mental health of their parents.

“Having just a little bit of normality was essential for us. We could take ten minutes out and grab a cup of tea and know she was safe and having fun.”

Imperial Health Charity’s Time For Play Appeal is raising vital funds to transform the existing children’s playroom at St Mary’s Hospital this winter, creating a vibrant and engaging space for play and other vitally important forms of therapy for children like Julia. You can make a donation to the appeal by clicking here.

*Names have been changed

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