It gives me great pleasure to share with youthe amazing accomplishment that you have helped us to achieve. This week ourbrilliant remodelled rooms for children with cancer will be admitting theirfirst patients. As you have so generously supported this project, I wantedto take you on our project journey, the good, the bad and the unexpected….
A year ago we began on what seemed like animpossible journey. This was started by a little girl, Niamph and her Mum, who withthe paediatric specialist cancer team asked us if we could make a realdifference to Niamph’s Cancer treatment.
The first time we saw the rooms, I wassaddened by the dim, cramped uninspired space that the children were beingtreated in, yes it met clinical standard for a medical side room, but what hopedid it offer and where was the space that took into account the family’s needsand where was the air conditioning? It was alsothe first time I met Hayley and Dr Lythe, specialists in this field who arecompletely inspirational and dedicated to the children and families they caredfor, I felt utterly humbled by their drive and passion.
Myself, the general manger for Paediatrics; TanithEllis, the lead consultant; Beryl Adler and our redevelopment lead; MelanieChalk met and agreed that we really wanted to make a difference, but where tostart?
We were incredibly lucky; adesigner of one of the Teenage Cancer Trust centres came forward, VenessaHermantes. Her ideas were remarkable and where we saw a cramped space she sawpossibilities. She engaged with our patients and clinical teams taking on boardtheir needs, ideas and wishes.
We had a very tight time line around whenthis project could happen, as it had to take place during the school summerholidays so that the school room on the ward could be used as a contingencyarea for patients. Also, during the winter there is far more pressure on beds,due to seasonal illnesses.
At the start of the project we were set atarget of £150k to achieve the ambitions of our teams in realising thepotential of these rooms, we also knew that we would need to reach this targetby June 2018.
The fundraising team (wellmyself and Bianca, as this was the team) knew we needed to make this happen.This led us to approach incredible grant giving Trusts and engage with thecommunity to support the appeal. I made the applications to the Trusts inthe hope that we could secure enough funding to push forward and our CommunityFundraiser, Bianca-Lee John worked with stores, local businesses, schools andcommunity groups whilst attending networking events and constantly publicisingon social media platforms to raise the profile of the appeal and vital pounds.
By December we had the final designs signedoff and had secured £110k from Trust funding and £35k from communityfundraising. Some of the community fundraising was extraordinary, thankslargely to our partnership with Sainsbury’s in Bramingham, who workedcollaboratively with our Community Fundraiser to organise an awareness walkbetween the store and hospital, whilst other local businesses got involved byprinting t-shirts for the walk free of charge and by providing a pit stoplocation and refreshments at the half way point , additionally those who couldnot attend on the day equally supported the event by donating to the justgiving page or by making a text donation to the project. Over 40 peopleparticipated in the walk including staff from both the hospital and Sainsbury’sstore, children, parents and volunteers from the community, a local Rotarygroup also supported on the day by providing us with a 4x4 vehicle to set thepace and play music on route to keep everyone smiling.
We also had schools from across the town whoparticipated in fundraising for their entire school year. Bianca contacted theschools by writing to them and calling them directly to discuss the project ,she then visited the schools and gave talks in assembly’s and classrooms toengage the students and the teachers to get on board as part of their schoolfundraising initiative. Bianca introduced fundraising ideas and activities tothem and the schools decided how they were going to help. The activities rangedfrom sporting activities to arts and crafts competitions to discos andnon-school uniform days. The message was for children to help other children inneed and the message was certainly delivered with over 16 local schoolssupporting the project, following each school fundraising Bianca re-visited togive thanks and to update on the progress of the rooms.
The paediatric team didn’t feel left out ofthe fun, we threw them out of a plane or more accurately they participated in acharity skydive to raise funds for the cause which is close to their hearts,other staff also got involved by making donations and participating infundraising activities which were organised in the hospital.
In February we had a knock back, underlyingproblems with the infrastructure of the rooms meant that we wouldn’t be able toput in the air conditioning units planned, this was mostly because the buildingwas built in the 60’s and everything is reinforced with concrete, also theelectric points would need rerouting to accommodate the infusion pumps. As this was a major component of the project, there was no way we couldgo on without it. We may have had a sleepless night or two at this point.Thankfully our redevelopment team stepped up and found a solution, that wecould put in an isolated split unit, but it did mean our fundraising target nowincreased to £210k.
We knew that we absolutely had to do thisproject, if not for Niamph then for the other 22 on-going patients, theirfamilies and any new patients we would receive in the future. I went back outto grant giving trusts and Bianca did a final community push in the Summer withtombola’s and games on the fundraising stalls, by this time we also had a newrecruit, Donna, on our team. Thankfully we received another £60k in grant fundingand £6k from the community, meaning we reached our target. Overjoyed does noteven begin to encompass the feeling we had at this news.
Now the project could start and in late June2018, our paediatric oncology team: a group of incredible individuals who hadalso been a driving force through this project, began the process of movingtheir patients and emptying the old rooms.
The contractors estimated the work wouldtake around 5 weeks and took into consideration meal times and sleep times so asnot to disturb our patients in other areas of the ward that needed vital restto recuperate.
About a week into the demolition we hadanother setback and work had to stop. The machinery they were using to take thewall out was causing vibrations, which were dangerous to other ward areas. Thismeant a delay as the contractors needed to revert to a sledge hammer, there wasa few references to mining caves, a certain troll in a wizard movie and thenurses in the office opposite became well versed in holding conversationsbetween the bangs.
Half way through this process came achallenge from above. To be precise the floor above, which is theatres. Thenoise was not conducive to delicate theatre procedures, so the time when thecontractors could work was narrowed down.
About a month into the project and the endwas now predicted for September, but we could already see the difference inspace and configuration, it was so exciting to see the space available and howthe rooms were coming into shape. We started to feel excited at the possibilityof what would be.
At this point we were contacted by Amazon,who wanted to donate some money but also to invite some of our young cancerpatients and child oncology team into their AI (artificial Intelligence) distributioncentre in Dunstable for a golden day. A fantastic day, where the children andstaff could try-out the picking robots, tour the facility and get totallyspoilt. They also gave each child a Kindle and over 20 for the children’swards. It was a day to remember.
In early September we knew that the roomswould still be a few weeks off, unfortunately the building delays meant thatother contractors, joinery and graphics had needed to reschedule and fit us inaround other projects. Still the atmosphere was one of excitement.
At the end of September, we got to see thegraphics up on the once plain walls, the joinery and some of the newfurnishings, it was worth the wait. Such a huge difference. It was at thissneak peak visit, that one of the paediatric nurses asked if one of our youngcancer patients could have a look, as he was having a down day and seeing therooms might cheer him up. We took him and his Dad in to see the rooms, his facelit up. He said “they are amazing, can I stay in the one with the penguins”.Even though the rooms were not finished the change and lift in his mood broughtback the reason for the project, to inspire and give hope.
Key members of staff who would be making useof the new area, started to look around for snagging and to check their needshad been met, again the reaction was overwhelmingly positive, although one ofthe illustrations of a badger may have caused a few comments (the graphic wasreplaced).
On Friday 5th October we invitedNiamph, her Mum and Mason and his Mum to open the rooms. They were thrilled, asare we.