You’ve helped us help Tom’s Ward

Our fundraising drive this year has raised an incredible amount of money to help the various teams who have helped us. We spent six months on Tom’s Ward, the paediatric surgical ward at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, so it was very important to us we not only gave something back to them, but we ensured families after us experienced the same high level of care.

We’ve provided:

• 4 x recliner armchairs for the neonatal bay to allow parents to have close contact with their baby.

  • 6 x bedside drawers

• 12 x stethoscopes

• 2 x auxilla neonatal thermometers

• 2 x portable saturation monitors

• 6 x drip stands (having one of the few decent drip stands has been my lifeline – it’s allowed me to explore the ward with Clara for the hours she wants to be held but moving, and has allowed us to make the most of the sensory room)

• Cutlery and crockery for the ‘parents room’ – the only child free zone on the ward which gave us breathing and thinking time, along with a place to heat up our dinner and have a cup of coffee

• Soft furnishings (cushions) to make the parents room more like a living room at home

• 40 activity books including themed colouring and sticker books for kids, and writing sets and Mindfulness colouring books for teenagers, colouring pens, colouring pencils

• Playdough for the play specialists to distract children pre and post operation

• Air drying clay for the play specialists (to make casts of long term babies hands and feet as memorable tokens for their parents)

• 10 x desk top fans to go to next to the cots/beds on warm days and to help those with a fever

I was very excited to see these additions for myself.

Honestly, the difference they make is huge. Even the little things like cutlery.

But the obvious difference is the new furniture: the armchairs, the drip stands, and the drawers. The ward Sister and I chose bright fun colours (Grape, Blue, and Turkish Delight) that complimented the existing decor.

Clara clearly approves of the purchases in her name:

But it’s about so much more than looks. In reality, it didn’t matter what they looked like. Yes it made it feel a bit more homely, but it just makes life on the ward so much more bearable.

The reclining armchairs were my personal mission to get in place. Having had these in NICU, I knew just how valuable and life changing they would be. And that’s no exaggeration.

After an operation, a baby is likely to be under heavy pain relief. And when that starts to wear off, and they don’t know why they feel the way they do and it hurts for them to move, it’s incredibly distressing. This pain relief is often administered via an IV into a cannula, along with rehydration fluids.

It’s so hard to get close to your baby in this situation. Lifting them and cuddling them isn’t straight forward – you don’t want to hurt them by moving them, and you worry about pulling on any lines. Once you have lifted them up, moving with them is tricky. Even if you make it to a chair, once you’re there you’re stuck there, uncomfortable and unable to move.I’d sit in a chair with a hospital pillow on my lap, Clara laid on top by a nurse or two. And there we stayed for a few hours. My legs and arm were hot, sweating under the weight of sleeping Clara and the plastic pillows, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t get my bottle of water as once I’d put it on the floor it had to stay there. I’d need to shift position, my lower back painful, but it’s impossible. I didn’t want to ask for help as it would mean putting Clara back in her cot and I just wanted to keep hold of her.

But the new armchairs change everything.

With these armchairs, its possible to recline easily so your baby can lay on you, rather than you holding their weight. The sides are filled so you can put a bottle of water tucked in next to you within easy reach, some snacks, even a book maybe.

After Clara’s operations, the night times were tough. She wanted me to stay close, it clearly comforted her. And whilst this is such a magical feeling to have, it was also so important I got my sleep as you’d never know what the next day had in store. And I always found I couldn’t sleep on the ward in the day, it just didn’t feel right. Having a padded chair that reclined meant I could sleep next to Clara’s cot. I’d put my arm through her bars and she’d hold onto my finger. I’d always wake hourly through the night to check she was okay, but it meant I slept. Which always made the next day that little bit easier to get through. And it meant Clara could recover quicker too as she stayed calmer for longer.

Tom’s Ward had six baby beds on the bay, but only four parent beds. The two middle beds had a reclinable chair to compensate. If no baby was in the middle baby, the chair could be borrowed (say by me), but if a new patient came in at any point (even the middle of the night), it had to go back.

Thanks to your fundraising, every parent of a baby on Tom’s Ward is now able to sleep right next to their baby if they want. Or hold them comfortably during the day. Or have skin to skin – don’t forget some of these babies are still just days or weeks old (too old for NICU). ‘Kangaroo care’ has been medically proven to be beneficial to children’s recovery.

So thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You’ve changed lives.

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