They say every picture tells a story – and this is the story behind the front page of our latest edition of TORCH magazine. Seven-year-old Giselle, pictured with Play Specialist Sonia - who is funded by our charity - explains how she has been supported in the Oxford Children's Hospital.

One of the lovely things about working for Oxford Hospitals Charity is being out and having the time to talk to patients and families about how the charity can make a difference and hearing about the things that have helped them while they are in hospital.

It was on one of these trips that we met our beautiful little cover girl, seven-year-old Giselle from Buckinghamshire.

Giselle, pictured holding one of our charity teddies alongside senior play specialist, Sonia Dugmore, was waiting to have an MRI scan in the Oxford Children’s Hospital.

She’d had major emergency surgery and was receiving on-going care for a gastro condition – so the scan was important to see how she was getting on.

Any adult who has had an MRI scan will know it can be a noisy and rather claustrophobic experience, and so traditionally many children have needed to have a general anaesthetic to cope with the experience.

But thanks to our charity’s funding of Sonia, in the new radiology play specialist role, many more children are now able to have their MRI scan fully conscious – meaning they can get home and on with their lives much more quickly.

And our gift of a ‘stay still teddy’ is another little way the charity helps to make hospital a less scary place for our youngest patients.

When we met Giselle - the first patient to receive one of our 'stay still teddy' -  her parents took the time to tell us about how special the care from the Oxford Children’s Hospital has been for their family and in particular how important the role of the play specialists is.

And as we approach Play in Hospitals week, we thought their recognition of how important play specialists are in hospitals was important to share.

Dad, Riaz Rahman explained: ‘I have been truly blown away by the level of support we have seen across the whole of the Oxford Children’s Hospital. I work in hospital settings, and often hear the phrase ‘patient centred care’ being used by senior managers in NHS Trusts –  and I have seen that phrase come to life in Oxford.

‘As parents, one of the most difficult things to see is your child in hospital undergoing a life-saving operation.  The way in which the expert play specialists interacted with our daughter throughout her pre and post operative journey made a world of difference. 

‘The team of play specialists were able to communicate and engage with our daughter so she understood what was happening in terms of her treatment. This reduced her anxiety and worry and also allowed us, as parents, to better engage with the doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to provide the best care.  We cannot speak highly enough of the positive and lasting impact the play specialist team made to our daughter during her time at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Riaz and his wife Angelie mentioned play specialist Chloe Abbott as someone who had formed a particularly special bond with their seven-year old.

‘Chloe had a wonderful ability to talk and engage with Giselle. As we were going into theatre Giselle was acutely anxious, crying and very worried – and it was Chloe who managed to calm her. That kind care continued as she was recovering and it is no surprise to us that Giselle would wake up and ask for Chloe each day. 

‘There is something very special about the bond and trust they created during what was a very difficult period – and we will always be grateful for it.'

Giselle added: ‘I was very ill and had a tube in my tummy. I met a play specialist called Chloe and she played with me when I was not well and explained my treatment to me. She also held my hand when I was scared because I had to go to sleep for an operation.

‘Chloe was my friend because she stayed by my side when I needed her. She is a kind person and cheered me up a lot. I was upset to leave her when I had to go home.’

Pay Specialist, Chloe Abbot was delighted to recieve such lovely feedback and said: ‘Being a newly qualified Play Specialist, Giselle and her family were one of the first families I had the delight of working closely alongside. Giselle is a wonderful little girl, and it was a pleasure to be able to support her through what was such a difficult and scary time for her.

'It has been so heartening to receive this feedback from Giselle and her family, and to hear the positive difference we were able to make during their journey through the hospital, I wish them all the best’.

Lead Play specialist, Erica Waston also commented: ‘ It was lovely to receive this very special feedback and to be able to share this with Chloe.

'Our team does so much more than simply play with our young children, they calm them, inform them, guide them, distract them and advocate for them. To hear about the impact this has had on Giselle, and so many other patients is really heartening.’

Jane Bray from Oxford Hospitals Charity added: ‘ It was wonderful to meet Giselle and her family when we visited the Children’s Radiology department. She was our first patient to receive one of our stay still teddies and we were so pleased to hear from her and her parents about their experiences in the children’s hospital.

'Our charity loves supporting the work across the Oxford Children’s Hospital and we link in really closely with the NHS teams working there – including the wonderful play specialists – to provide the very best support we can.

'We are so grateful to our charity supporters for their generosity, which means we are able to make a real difference for our youngest patients.’

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