Spread a Smile is proud to work with and support some incredible healthcare professionals across our NHS hospital and hospice partners, including doctors, nurses, play specialists, therapists and more.
To recognise the amazing work of our healthcare professionals, we asked the families we support to nominate someone who makes their child smile the most in hospital. We celebrate all of our nominees, with five lucky winners receiving dinner with wine kindly donated by our friends at Riding House Café.
Here are some of our amazing nominations and congratulations to all of our nominees.
Jen Vincent and Jennifer Beggy: Epilepsy Nurse Specialists at Colchester Hospital “Both Jen and Jenny go above and beyond what is expected of them in their role as epilepsy nurse specialists. They are always at the end of the phone for advice and support. When our son is admitted to hospital or attending for appointments, they make the time to come and see him. Bringing fun through games and engaging him with his favourite activities. They’ll talk, laugh and play for as long as he needs. They’re truly one of a kind.”
Gemma Melisi: Royal London Hospital (Retinoblastoma Clinic)
“Gemma knows all her children so well, finding toys and activities to suit them. She’s always cheerful, laughing and smiling. She’s the hook for hospital visits for so many and we miss her when we don’t go to hospital. She’s taken the time to collate photos so that our daughter has a book to show her journey for when she’s older. We love Gemma!”
Helen Farmer: Cancer Nurse Specialist at Watford Hospital
“Helen is a very dedicated professional who has been dedicated to Camila, our beautiful daughter, since day one. Always looking to support us as a family in this journey, looking for the best interest of Camila in terms of her care plan but also development. Helen is an outstanding professional, knowledgeable and very organised made our journey a bit more bearable in different occasions of our treatment.”
Aine O’Donovan: University College London Hospital (Radiotherapy)
“Aine is always so kind, thoughtful and cheerful, helping so much to keep Fin calm.”
Amy Lloyd and Amy Crowley: Fox Ward, Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) “In the three years we were in GOSH they always made Jessica smile while she was in hospital. They would help her achieve her crazy ideas i.e. making passports for her dolls and teddies. They always kept her busy with arts and crafts and toys. They would spend time playing games with her and take it well when Jessica always won! They would make Jessica feel special.
“During covid they lost the volunteers overnight so had to look after both wards, providing play sessions and making sure the children were entertained and safe. They never missed a session with us even though they had 21 other patients on the ward between them. They were always calm and never rushed the sessions.
“They supported Jessica through some of her difficult times. They supported her when her Dad died while we were in hospital. Helped her make treatment plans for operations, dressing changes and books about procedures she was going to have. They accompanied us to theatre to support both of us as the anaesthetic was given.
“They would also make sure I was ok and give me time to myself. I will always be grateful for that hour to myself – it kept me sane, especially when Covid meant we weren’t allowed to use the parents room.
“When we found out that Jessica was dying they helped me tell her and her brother. They organised for a photographer to come and take pictures of us as a family as we hadn’t been together for 18 months. They helped us make memory canvases. They also fulfilled Jessica’s only wish which was to have the play team with her all day. They made sure that I was supported and Alfie was entertained during Jessica’s final days. It really helped me knowing that Alfie was ok
“They would sit with Jessica holding her hand while I spoke to doctors outside the room, they made sure she was never alone. This made it easier for me to leave the room knowing she had someone she loved and that cared for her with her should anything happen while I wasn’t there.
They sat with me after Jessica had died, sharing memories, laughing and crying together.
They supported the whole family from the day we arrived until the day we left. They were there for the fun times and the most difficult times. I don’t think I could have managed 3 years in hospital without them, they became like family and we are still in touch today.
Jessica would have been nominating them had she still been alive. When you asked her what the best bit of her hospital stay was, she would say playing with Amy and Amy and the nurses.”
Molly Craig: Nurse on Elephant Ward, Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH)
“She is nice and funny. Always smiles and is in a contagious good mood.”
Ellie Pitt: T11N nurse at University College London Hospital (UCLH)
“She is nice and funny. She shared her journey of courage with me and that was inspiring.”
Jay Thomas: Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Psychology Department “Jay has worked with Jake for over 12 months now and engaged well with him always putting a smile on his face. He has helped Jake to overcome so many fears mainly having bloods taken.”
Victoria Riddleston: Ward C3, Addenbrookes Hospital
“We spent three weeks on the ward with Vicky when George had just had his tracheostomy in. She made him smile every day! She had messy play ready (even if she couldn’t be there) as a motivator for his daily dressing changes – tapes then messy play. Vicky works by her values that play and happiness heal. She listened to George’s likes and interests and tailored his play to develop these further.
“George caught hospital bug upon hospital bug and spent weeks isolating in his room, unable to use play rooms or play with other children. She filled his room with resources and created play spaces so that the isolation wasn’t such a big deal.
“One day our son had had many tricky procedures. He said he wanted to dance so she surprised him with some sensory lighting and music that filled his hospital room and brought so much joy! Another day George talked about visiting a library so she created a library role play area, with a library card, till and books which sparked his imagination.
“When we needed to help him get better at laying flat for his tube changes, she got him a space tent to go over his bed. He would lay down looking at the stars. Here she used play to make his difficult procedures more manageable.
“As a parent, she gave me space to think and breathe which is a luxury when you are caring for your child 24/7. Our family will always be grateful for the joy (and mess) Vicky brought during those weeks.”
Jacob Simmonds: Heart Transplant Consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH)
“They make us smile because: Jacob is always smiling. He takes the time to find out what Abigail loves (pandas, dogs and maths); he remembers and will spend time chatting about dogs instead of medical things, even in a busy clinic. He goes above and beyond to help Abigail (for example, offering to bake a cake for her when she was in intensive care for seven weeks last year and wouldn’t eat). Jacob talks to Abigail rather than me (and makes her happy); other consultants talk to me (Mum) and not Abigail. He always makes time to chat, even when he’s not meant to be at work (we’ve chatted outside Waitrose in the Brunswick Centre near GOSH), and he always leaves Abigail smiling.”
Hannah: PDAU, North Middlesex Hospital
“Hannah is brilliant in every crisis and she always has a big smile for Jacob. She is the best nurse ever. If he’s having a hard time, she changes it round to a brilliant day.”
Lorraine Cossar: Padua Children’s Ward, William Harvey Hospital
“Lorraine always goes above and beyond to support chronically ill children like our son Josh. Knowing that Josh was needle phobic and was having a port fitted, Lorraine invited him up to the ward to play in the play room regularly even when he didn’t need to have any medical procedure to try and lessen his anxiety. Lorraine created a dolly who had a port and who Joshy could play with and pretend to treat. The dolly was a huge hit and was Joshy’s toy of choice for a long time.
“Not only does Lorraine always ensure Joshy has some toys to play with at every stay, she has also been a huge support to me as his Mum. Sometimes when you spend long periods of time in hospital you become all consumed by your child’s health and often find yourself doubting yourself because you have nobody to talk things through with. Lorraine has encouraged me to advocate for my son, and always offers an ear for me to talk things through. Lorraine is probably completely unaware of the amazing support she provides and how much of an impact she has had on me and my family. She is wonderful.”
Charlotte Holt: Play specialist on Eagle Ward at Great Ormand Street Hospital (GOSH)
“Charlotte makes me smile because she has always consistently been happy, smiling and caring. She has always gone out of her way to keep Jia entertained,
positive and as happy as possible. She has created special and funny memories which Jia has treasured over the years and still talks about today – nearly three years on! Thank you Charlotte!”
Jenny: Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH)
“She is very caring, always knows how to get a smile from us and looks out for different things to do while at the hospital.”
Nurse Catherine: Children’s Haematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Unit, Great North Children’s Hospital, Royal Victoria Infirmary
“Catherine lifts our spirits when she comes into the room, she is always happy and jolly but also caring and knows when I need help with things. She also helps to take a little bile off my stomach and this helps me feel better after my stem cell transplant.”