Thursday, August 6, 2015

Day 2129 - Royal Children's Hospital

You never know what's available until you need it.


A very dear friend of mine has a very sick little man right now.  They have had to uproot their lives in the country for a six month stay at Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

As you can imagine this would be tough on anyone, but particularly so for them given she is also pregnant with their second child and will now have to give birth in the new environment.



Clearly there are a whole bunch of people who are really worried about them and how they are surviving in a strange city without family and friends nearby.

So many people feel helpless wandering around their non-Melbourne homes wondering how to ease their burden.

I of course am one of those people.

So last week I took an overnight trip to Melbourne to see what I could do to help.  I needed to see with my own eyes that they are OK.

My friend took me on a journey around the Royal Children's Hospital.  It's a journey I won't forget in a hurry.

There are a lot of sick children there.  Very sick children.

But what I could see was an energy, a spirit and a type of colourful hope that seemed to override the anxieties to some degree (if that's possible).

This could of course be more of a reflection of my friend's energy, spirit and hope, but her energy is being fed by something.

The place is amazing.  AMAZING!

For a start they've made it as child and family friendly as possible.  While hospital is a place of anxiety, fear and a reminder of our mortality for so many, RCH have done what they can to give the place an air of wonder and excitement.

For a start there's the enormous two storey circular fish tank that allows children to walk around it to view the fish, sharks and plant life.  It's visible from the main street entrance as well as from Emergency on the lower ground floor. It's got around 25 species of fish and holds 153,000 litres of water.



There there's the big "sculpture" or a "creature" which forms the centrepiece of the hospital in what they call "Main Street".  It's 14 metres tall and creates much conversation as to what it might actually be.  Whatever it is, it has kind eyes and a peaceful look as it watches a lovely butterfly that flaps it's wings.  This whimsical creature was created by artist Alexander Knox.



RCH is also home to a bunch of very inquisitive meerkats! They're very entertaining and provide a great distraction for the kids. They have an open air enclosure at the hospital right next to the waiting area at the Specialist Clinics on the ground floor.  I was impressed at how detailed the exhibit is and how it seems to replicate their natural habitat.  The exhibit is maintained by the Melbourne Zoo.



The Starlight Children's Foundation have a great little "get-away" at the hospital for the children which they call the Starlight Express Room. It's quite a big space where kids can go for entertainment. There are computer games, movies, crafts, activities and visiting performers.  The space also houses the Starlight TV station which broadcasts their own live show to bedside TVs in the wards twice a day.  It also broadcasts movies which can be chosen by the children. Of course the lovely Starlight Entertainers also go to wards to visit the children and provide them with some bedside fun.

The hospital also has a current trial in place where they provide iPads for learning.  RCH is one of eight trial sites for the Victorian Government Department of Education and Early Childhood Development roll out of iPads in schools.  The iPads are filled with fun and age appropriate activities for the kids to assist with their learning and development while they are confined to their hospital bed.

Speaking of education, some areas of the hospital also have a teacher on site which is run by the RCH Education Institute.  I know for my friend she is relieved that her three year old still gets to go to pre-school within metres of his room.   For one hour a day, five days a week, he gets to join other children of a similar age who wheel their intravenous trolleys into the room with them to learn, play and mingle.

There is also a library within the hospital with resources such as books, games, puzzles, DVDs etc that children can loan for entertainment in their rooms.

So we know that the hospital is doing all it can for the kids to not only treat their illnesses but to also provide them with a space that is still very child friendly and welcoming.

But what about the parents? What support do they have?

In addition to the many coffee shops, cafes, hairdresser and beauty salon to help keep mum feeling somewhat human, there is also a long list of charities and support networks that parents can tap into.

Especially for those like my friend who is a long way from home.

This is the bit that I was most relieved about.  I wish I'd taken notes on all the wonderful organisations and volunteers that help the families in these situations.  I just remember that she has a dedicated support officer who works tirelessly to ensure they are getting all they can to not only help their child get through his illness, but to also ensure they have adequate living arrangements and that her unborn baby is taken into consideration.

They managed to get her a space with one of Melbourne's most sought after obstetricians.   They not only organised Ronald McDonald House for them in the short term but have now found them a two bedroom apartment to house them and their visiting family members when the baby is born (at little to no cost).

There are so many other amazing resources to tap into that you never know exist until you need them like the grandparents program where retirees volunteer their time to become surrogate grandparents for people who don't have the luxury of family nearby. Someone to get to know the child and can give Mum and Dad some respite from time to time.

The staff are incredible and one lady in particular goes out of her way every day to stock the parent's kitchen in my friend's ward with fresh baked goods and fresh fruit from local businesses who have donated the items.  She also keeps her ear to the ground to hear of things to make the lives of the families in her ward more bearable.

There are a few people like this at the hospital. An example is when actor and Playschool host Eddie Perfect came to the hospital to help launch a children's book.  My friend and her son are confined to their ward due to the risk of infection so one employee organised for Eddie to visit them in their room.  Mr Three wasn't overly impressed but his Offspring loving mum was feeling pretty chuffed!

The list is really long and I could write about it forever. But the bottom line is that she's covered.  She has all the care, support and kindness that she could possibly ask for during this very delicate time.

You never know what's available until you need it.  But Royal Children's Hospital have definitely got it covered.

Well done Australia.


The images in this post have been borrowed from the RCH website/blog. The lighting in my own photos just didn't do the hospital justice. 



PS I finally did the Liebster thing. Come and learns some more about me and see who won.

30 comments :

  1. Wow! That is utterly amazing! So much thought has gone into that, what an amazing place for families at such a horrific time in their lives. I hope your friends child is going to be ok, I can't even imagine and get a pit in my stomach upon thinking about it. Best wishes to them.

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    1. You're right Haidee, So much thought has gone into it. I am really impressed by it.

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  2. I'm so pleased to know such a place exists to support families under such enormous strain. I hope for a good outcome all around for your friend xx

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  3. That really does sound incredible and makes me so proud to be an Australian. Anything that can help these children and their families is so important. I just love that they have meerkats there.

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    1. Yeah, it's definitely something to be proud of. So many people complain about the health system. It's so good to see that this facility exists.

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  4. That is fantastic (and I love the meerkats!)

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  5. I'm so sorry to hear that your friend has a sick child Leanne. It makes you put life into perspective. I have also just had a friend with a 5 year old spend a couple of years here. She has just overcome leukaemia last month. The RCH has been fabulous to my children also. The facilities are fabulous. x

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    1. Poor petal. Yes, it's a great facility especially for children's cancers and leukaemia. So happy to hear your friends' daughter has won her fight!

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  6. It's wonderful to know the support is there for parents especially. I'm so sorry your friend is going through this difficult time. We found this message to be true last year, when we had a run of bad luck in our family, hubby had an episode that landed him in hospital for a few days, with what we were told could be brain damage, just after him getting the all clear,my son broke is collar bone at football training, followed by the hubby injuring himself at work. It was a tough 3 months, in which we also moved house twice, and we could not have done it without the love, help and support, from total strangers and friends alike. It can make a horrible situation, bearable.

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    1. Oh gosh! That is a "run of bad luck". Wow. So happy to hear you guys got through all of that. It's so comforting to hear stories of survival and community support when these situations occur.

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  7. I stayed at this hospital for 10 days in the Special Care Unit with my third born who had a bowel issue at birth. It was a wonderful set-up. Thankfully my son's issue corrected itself and we were sent home but there were some very serious and sad issues on such little people and their parents in there.

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    1. Thank goodness your son is OK! How scary! Great that you had RCH nearby.

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  8. You never want to have a sick child, or have a friend or family who has one...but when you do, The Royal Children's Hospital is an excellent facility. Those meerkats are so entertaining while parents and kids are waiting for outpatient appointments.

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    1. Sounds like you've been there! The Meerkats are wayyyy cool.

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  9. That is so great to hear of the support your friend and families with sick kids are getting. I hope your friend's little one is goind OK - she is lucky to have good friends like you checking in on her.

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    1. He's a fighter ... and still a bundle of three year old energy ... so it's looking good for him so far. Still a long road though. RCH is definitely helping.

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  10. Hi Leanne - Big hugs to your friend - I hope all goes well with her birth and that her little man is soon on the road to recovery. It can be very difficult having to uproot your life and be out of your comfortable home for a prolonged period. Thank goodness she has the facilities of the Royal Children's Hospital.

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  11. Leanne, you're such a wonderful friend. I think it takes a special type of person to work in a children's hospital. I hope your friend's little boy will be okay x

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    1. The staff at RCH are amazing. The strategies they have to work with the kids and keep them entertained etc while going through such horrid procedures. Plus the genuine caring and support given to each family. It's such a great thing to see. But yeah, not sure I could do it.

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  12. That's so lovely that they have such an amazing set up for the children and their families during such a difficult time. I hope all of the children's hospitals in Australia will eventually be at that same standard (although luckily we haven't needed to visit one yet - fingers crossed we won't have to). It makes me so sad just thinking about the children in there but it's fantastic that they have such a great environment to learn and play in

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  13. It's so lovely that this place is there for the people that need it, at such a terrible time. I hope your friend's little boy is much better soon, Leanne.

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    1. Me too Lisa. There's a long way to go but he's still smiling!

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  14. Oh Leanne, so said to hear that - as you know H had a few days in serious wards with sickness and we saw a lot of very sick children, it sure makes me feel grateful for what I have. x

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    1. Yeah, I'm feeling pretty grateful right now too Em. I too spent a week in hospital with Miss Teen with her surgery in Sydney last year. The pain she went through was unbearable for me .... but it wasn't life threatening. Then of course my grown up step daughter has her life hanging in the balance with her cancer. To have your child's life hanging in the balance is rough. But to have your baby's life hanging in the balance is just downright unfathomable.

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  15. After just getting out of a pretty drab ward in hospital, it great to see so much care and attention put in to this one. Every time we are admitted, I wonder how I can raise funds to have the kid's ward made over. The circa 1990s TV don't even work well enough to whack on ABC Kids for some quiet time.

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    1. Oh, that sucks! It would be great to get a local business or a nearby Harvey Norman or Aldi to maybe donate some previous model TVs or something. At a bare minimum it would be good for kids to have a functioning TV while they're confined in their sick beds.

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