by Roslyn Neely
FOR the 100,000 plus babies, children and young people which our work supports, this means that no physical or mental health issue should prevent them from accessing the same opportunities as their peers.
Being in hospital either for a short visit to the emergency department or having a life-long relationship due to a long-term condition brings many challenges. Hospitals are large, bustling buildings filled with departments called long, confusing names. For children and young people, arrival at hospital can be daunting, nerve-wracking and stressful; and if a child is feeling this way then it’s often the case that the parent or carer accompanying them feels this way too.
The Sick Kids Friends Foundation works alongside NHS Lothian at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children to provide distraction, facilities and enhancements which aim to reduce anxiety levels and take children’s minds off their procedures or treatments. In the last year we’ve brought over 30 organisations, from across Edinburgh, into the hospital to bring fun and distraction to those in outpatients and on wards.
National Museums Scotland has brought exhibitions into the wards, with the chance to hold a mammoth tooth being relished by the children and young people. Dancebase is working with the physiotherapy team to bring exercise to children in an engaging way. Storytelling by groups such as Flotsam and Jetsam, Readathon and Edinburgh Dungeon brings playrooms to life and allows families to spend special time together away from the bedside. Clowndoctors and musicians connect with children for whom other activities may not be possible, encouraging them to be confident, take part and have fun.
Edinburgh’s Kings Theatre is renowned for their annual pantomime, and ‘Panto Presents’ brings the seasons pantomime to Edinburgh’s children’s hospital so children don’t miss out on normal childhood experiences and for them to learn creatively. ‘Panto Presents’ appeals to a range of ages; and encourages children to actively learn and engage through creative workshops, delivered by professional artists and performers.
Even the simple activities offered from our Craft Cart and Mobile Library help to reduce the boredom and isolation which can often set in during a long hospital stay. Creations made in hospital chart a child’s progress towards recovery and hang proudly on the walls during their stay.
We know that by bringing projects like these into the hospital, as well as other healthcare settings across the Lothians, a child’s mental health and well-being improves. Children are not missing out culturally; they are being distracted from their environment making them more relaxed which often aids a faster recovery. They are more likely to have a positive hospital experience making it less daunting for repeat visits.
The best result for us is when we hear that children look forward to their next hospital appointment. It is said laughter is the best medicine but at SKFF we say art, activity, dance, music, fun, singing, play and creativity are equally good.