Meet the GOSH parents taking on the challenges of lockdown

15 Feb 2021, 10:07 a.m.

Raffy at GOSH

Children and families still come to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) every day. But the hospital under lockdown is quite a different place to what it was before the pandemic.

Now, only one carer per family can go with a child into the hospital.

This makes things even more difficult for parents like Imogen and James. Their son Raffy (pictured above) first arrived at GOSH last summer.

“Your whole world turns upside down when you’re told your child has cancer,” Imogen says.

“And then we can’t even do this together, we have to deal with it separately.”

Lockdown pressure on parents

Juliet’s children Emily and Luke (pictured below) both have cystic fibrosis and have been coming to GOSH for years. She’s very aware of how things have changed.

“The pressure on parents with children in hospital is even greater,” she explains.

“There’s far less flexibility for parents coming in and out, especially in lockdown. It feels far more isolating, so this is even harder on the family.”

And, of course, the children are noticing changes too.

“There aren't the open play areas, volunteers and external partners that would come in and make the day less medical,” Juliet says.

Luke especially misses the therapy dogs. Emily misses playing games with lots of volunteers.

Picture of Luke and playworker and picture of Emily on her own

GOSH Play team

The work of the GOSH Play team takes on increased significance in this environment.

“The play teams are still doing a great job,” Juliet says.

Imogen agrees, citing Raffy’s "wonderful" play workers, Evie and Alanna, and music therapist Katya.

Danielle, another GOSH mum, says when visitors were no longer allowed, the Play team “became very important" to her four-year-old son Jake (pictured below).

“It was someone else besides me that he got to play with, and he formed lovely bonds with them.”

Jake temporarily lost his eyesight as a result of his brain tumour. Through play, he was able to feel calmer about his situation. And, like Raffy, Jake was a big fan of Katya’s music therapy sessions.

With playrooms closed, Jake was given a Walkie Talkie to use to chat with other patients and staff.

“Jake got to speak to the other children through them,” Danielle says. “It was lovely to hear him talk to them.”

Jake with playworker at GOSH and Jake on his own

Vital support service for parents

Juliet and Danielle have no doubt about the value of the GOSH Play team.

“We need them now more than ever as we’re doing this more on our own than ever before,” Juliet says.

“Parents need the Play team to give us an opportunity to take a breath of fresh air, engage positively with our children and be part of the GOSH family.”

“When visitors weren’t allowed, the Play team became our support,” Danielle recalls.

“I had support from family afar, but it isn’t the same as having them face-to-face. The staff were there for us on our down days to listen, to comfort and give advice.

“On our good days, they were there to have fun and share laughs. It was very much needed, for both Jake and me.”

Please support our Families Appeal

Parents like Imogen, Juliet and Danielle are bringing their children to GOSH under extraordinary circumstances.

There are visitor restrictions. There are staff in masks and PPE. And parents have to plan travel and accommodation under the same lockdown rules as the rest of us.

What is already a stressful time is even more challenging.

But you can help to make the experience easier.

By supporting our Families Appeal today, you’ll help GOSH Charity fund the practical and emotional support that parents and families need.

Your donation today could help towards:

  • Vital services including the hospital Play team, which helps patients understand their treatment and cope with separation from peers and siblings 
  • Social work and multi-faith chaplaincy teams who provide family advice and support now, and in the months ahead. 
  • Family accommodation so mums and dads can stay close by while their children undergo treatment 

Please donate to our appeal today.

Thank you.