Children about to undergo surgery at St Helier Hospital can now find a welcome distraction as they are taken to the operating theatre – thanks to a well-known, multi-coloured elephant.
Play specialist Sara Smith, who often accompanies young patients as they are taken to surgery, noticed that the journey through the hospital corridors to the operating theatres can be a daunting and distressing time for children, and decided to do something about it.
Sara said: “My role is all about supporting children during a hospital stay, so whether that’s using play to help them deal with any anxieties about their care or supporting their development during a long stay with us, I’m here to help our young patients remain happy and calm.
“That is a particular difficult challenge during the journey to theatre, as children don’t have anything to distract them and are facing something that even our older patients can find a bit frightening. I came up with the idea of creating a trail along the route to theatres, setting younger patients the challenge of spotting 20 different pictures along the way and ticking them off on a special checklist.”
But, it was 16-year-old patient Millie Batten who came up with the suggestion for which character should star in the show – and came up with the popular patchwork mammal, Elmer the Elephant.
Millie was an inpatient at Queen Mary’s for five weeks (and even celebrated her 16th birthday on the ward) and during her time there, Sara set her the challenge of helping with the trail project. Millie said: “It was quite difficult being in hospital for such a long time, but all of the nurses and staff on the ward were really good and did their best to keep me entertained. I was really happy to help Sara with her project, and thought Elmer would be perfect for the trail because he’s so brightly coloured. It looks brilliant and I really hope it can help to stop people worrying on their way to surgery.”
Staff from Queen Mary’s, along with Millie and her mum Jackie (who happens to work in the data team at St Helier) held a special launch event to celebrate the start of the Elmer Trail. The 20 Elmer posters are now in pride of place (keep your eyes open to see a few of them along the ground floor of the main corridor of St Helier Hospital).