Paediatrics is unlike any other experience of hospital I’ve had before. Not that I’ve spent much time in them as a whole. My experience is limited to visiting poorly relatives and of course, giving birth to our two beautiful girls. There’s definitely a different feeling here though, as if the children and their interests come first, and their illness second. Like the time Poppy interrupted a discussion with the doctors on their morning round to ask if she could go to the park, and the lead consultant sat next to Graham tapping her phone, showing him how to get to the nearest one. Or the many times anyone enters our room while we are reading, and waits patiently for us to finish before resuming their duties. Even joining in with their favourite parts on occasion, as with the appearance of the Gruffalo fish in ‘Tiddler’.
The children’s wards and the people who work in them are full of colour and light, and bright, shiny ideas which inspire and give hope. Once first admitted to Gloucester hospital, Poppy was encouraged to paint a ceiling tile for her bedroom. I was surprised by her reluctance at first, but it soon became clear that she thought she was expected to climb a ladder and paint it from there! A logical conclusion, that once cleared up allowed her to engage enthusiastically in her painting from a more comfortable position on her bed. Once completed, it was installed later that same day by the Play Specialists.
There’s also the personalised sticker reward charts for taking medicine and the Treasure Chest of gifts for bravery. The special edition Barbie donated by Mattel, complete with interchangeable wigs and bandanas for discussing hair loss. Generous and thoughtful, but I won’t pretend that my heart didn’t break that my little girl’s first ever Barbie doll should be this one.
Not that Poppy needs any help coming to terms with hair loss. Despite a previous longing for “long hair like Lottie’s” (her 5 year old playmate), her ability to adapt to her new reality astonishes us everyday. Recently, after a very specific request for toast “slightly toasted, not too much and cut into little triangles”, the Play Specialist made a comment about Poppy being like Goldilocks. A few days later, she talked about some of her medicine making her hair fall out and laughed that she would then be a “Baldilocks!” Such a sense of humour in a 3 year old who has had a whirlwind adventure to say the least is truly awe-inspiring. People keep telling us how strong we are but our own strength comes directly from Poppy and her utter resilience in the face of Leukaemia and all it’s throwing at her.
One of my favourite schemes is the Beads of Courage. A daily bead journal to keep with each act of bravery exchanged for a different coloured bead. A visual learning journey of how far Poppy has already come on her brave, new adventure. She has filled up two pieces of thread already. It’s painful and beautiful and a much nicer talking point than a list of procedures, but a keepsake all the same and a reminder of this journey being one step and one bead at a time x
PS – To give you an idea of the number of brave acts Poppy endures daily, it is worth noting that I took these photographs on Thursday 3rd May. Poppy has earned an additional 47 beads in the 9 days that have followed.