Bone Marrow Transplant Unit Visits at GOSH
Since April, we have been given special access to visit children in isolation rooms on Fox and Robin wards at Great Ormond Street Hospital. These wards are for children who need a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. They are treated in strict isolation before and after their transplant as they are at major risk of infection.
As infection control on these wards is so high, our entertainers are not allowed to enter the isolation rooms as this would compromise the patients. Instead they entertain the children through the room windows, communicating using the intercom system. Our entertainers have become adept at knowing what sort of performance will work under these limitations – a particular test for our magicians whose tricks normally rely on audience participation. They are so brilliant that they are still able to amaze and astound despite the lack of contact. We were approved for access to the ward after proving our due diligence with the understandably high standard of hygiene required.
The children, who range in age from 0 to 18 years, are kept in isolation usually for 3-4 weeks post-transplant – some for much longer. They are allowed visits from up to three carers, but their siblings are not allowed to visit until their neutrophil – a form of white blood cell – count is back to a safe level. The time in the room is very taxing. Play Specialist Amy Crowley told us, “They are not allowed to leave the room so they are naturally constricted. They are also connected to machines and pumps for the majority of the day so they do not have free movement. They are isolated from their friends and family, have no privacy and suffer from disturbed sleep. They never have a break.”
We spoke to Beverley, mother of Celeste who spent four months in an isolation room after her bone marrow transplant surgery. Celeste was 10 years old at the time and received a bone marrow transplant from her older sister as part of treatment for leukaemia.
Beverley said they were desperate for Spread a Smile to visit: “Celeste’s long four months in one room were incredibly isolating. She was not allowed to leave her room for the full four months after surgery, and couldn’t see her siblings for the first two months. The only visitors allowed for the initial stretch were me, and her dad at weekends when he wasn’t at work. Celeste couldn’t even see her twin sister.”
Play Specialist Amy stressed the importance of Spread a Smile’s visits: “The children and families love and appreciate seeing all the different entertainers. It brings happiness to the ward. I think Spread a Smile is amazing. To see the children’s faces when the entertainers come to their windows is a picture. Your performers are incredible. I can’t thank you enough for everything you do for Fox and Robin kids.”