Dr Mousse sent us this wonderful story about a boy aged four at the Sick Kids who was in Ward 7 then Ward 2 who has been undergoing treatment for a brain tumour.
We started to see this boy on Ward 7 when he was recovering from his operation. He had very little response but could follow with his eyes and move his hands a little. Dr Beatz and I visited him in the playroom. He was sitting in a chair and we started a very gentle game of a scarf flying around his chair. It began to make noises when it landed on us or sometimes on his feet. He followed this with his eyes. We then started to accompany the scarf with louder and sillier sounds when it landed. When it landed on Dr Beatz’s head and made a silly sound the boy smiled. We kept it very gentle and his Mum was clearly moved by his response.
The next time we saw him he had moved to Ward 2 and his Mum told us he was starting to say words now. Dr Zap and I saw him in the playroom. We started with a gentle game of trying to get in the door. He was laughing straight away and trying to give us advice. We were able to build the game up so that he could tell us which way to go. He really enjoyed being in charge and laughed a lot. We kept it very simple and clear.
The last time we saw him he was busy and down the end of the ward but he saw us and waved and when we went the wrong way and bumped into the wall he had a big laugh.
These visits showed how you can build up your relationship with a child and change the visits as the child recovers. So rewarding.
The Power of Play
Joshua is a very unwell 6 year-old boy. In his room he was propped up against pillows in his bed by the window. We came up the stairs playing some music. As we tried to enter Joshua’s room, Dr Cheese bumped into the door, very gently. Joshua giggled. It is amazing that no matter how ill a child is, the urge and joy to play is the most powerful thing.
Our visit was gentle, sweet and funny. Joshua was engaged with us throughout even when he occasionally cried out in pain or discomfort. He loved our ‘Bahookie’ song and dance and joined in with the ‘thumbs down’ action. His motor skills are very affected, but he managed everything in his own time, which was fab and very rewarding.
We ended our time with Joshua playing a magic game using red balls and although he was tiring he kept playing. After almost an hour, his mum said in a lovely way that Joshua was tired and we left him with a big smile. It seemed to be a very precious visit for Joshua and his mum…and for us.
Dr Sprout & Dr Cheese
Clowndoctors in the classroom (Special Branch)
We were asked to visit Joe, an 8 year old boy whom we had visited previously. Joe has complex needs and has some vocabulary that he uses to communicate. On this particular day we were asked to visit Joe on his own in a separate room because he had been very unsettled in class. Staff requested a Clowndoctors visit to try to engage and calm him.
When we arrived, Joe was in his wheelchair with his head hanging low. We arrived with an up-tempo Hello song that we remembered he had responded to in previous visits. Joe lifted his head and said “hello”. He lowered his head again and, as he did Dr Squash mirrored him and slowly fell down below Joe’s wheelchair. Dr. Wallop offered Joe a stretchy worm prop to help pull Dr. Squash back up. When Joe made eye contact with Dr Squash we sang a “Hello Squash” song and, after a pause, Joe joined in. With Wallop’s encouragement, Joe let go of the worm and Squash fell down again, Joe laughed and he reached his hand towards the worm, appearing to start the game again. We repeated this a few times led by Joe and when Squash made eye contact, Joe would sing the “hello” song and he seemed to be trying to say “Squash” at the appropriate part of the song. Joe seemed engaged and calm throughout the visit. After the session, staff told us that Joe was able to return to class and be with his peers.
We learned the benefit of regular visits to this school and getting to know the children and learn triggers that can enable us to quickly make playful and authentic connections that benefit the child and the wider school community.
Dr Wallop and Dr Squash
Bonnie Elderflower visited a lady in her 60’s on Canaan Ward at Royal Edinburgh Hospital
We saw this lady over a long period of time on Canaan. We would see the lady over the space of the whole session as she often needed a little time to want to engage. She was often teary and nervous. We would sit a few seats away from her and play some music or look at objects in our bag. We would gradually engage and she would love to help us arrange our bag or sing along. Once she got confident she would walk with us and stay with us through other visits. She needed lots of physical touch and reassurance and would reward us with a beautiful smile and laugh when she had helped us sort out our things or do a dance and she really responded to simple silliness.
When she left the ward the Occupational Therapist enquired about whether we could go and see her at home as she felt we were the one thing that this lady really responded to and enjoyed.
A little bit of Jazz
We visited a gentleman, Martin, who is in the advanced stages of dementia. He was in bed, alone in his room. Next to him hung a poster of Miles Davis. We knew from our referrals from staff that Martin played the trumpet. We arrived singing a jazzy greeting. Pickle was singing and Blossom played a small tuning pipe which sounds like a little trumpet. Martin seemed a little more alert as the music played. He opened his eyes and appeared to focus on us.
Seeing the Miles Davis poster, Pickle asked Blossom to play “Sketches of Spain” and sang her a phrase of the music. After a pause, Blossom tried to play the tune on the pipe. It was good but it wasn’t Miles Davis! Not satisfied with her sister’s* attempts, Pickle would sing her favourite phrase again. Blossom would try to play it again. We did this several times and Martin seemed to maintain his focus on us and become a little more animated, particularly with some movement of his arms. We responded with playing louder every time he moved like this, which he liked.
Towards the end of our visit, he made a very definite movement of lifting his right arm and moving his fingers in the way a trumpet player would play notes. This seemed intentional, relaxed and expressive and there we had a moment of New York jazz in a quiet Edinburgh room.
Blossom & Pickle
*Elderflowers work as a ‘family’ as this helps spark memories of family with the people they visit.