Helping sick and disabled children in the UK.

by The Theodora Children's Charity
Vetted

On behalf of everyone at the Theodora Children's Charity, we wish you a heart-felt Happy New Year and all the best for 2017! We would also like to thank our generous supporters, who made 2016 a year of fun and giggles for so many poorly children in hospitals, hospices and specialist care centres. 

Your support really does make a huge difference to the well-being of so many sick and disabled children during difficult times. A stay in hospital can be an incredibly stressful and upsetting time, especially for children. Away from friends, family and loved ones for long periods of time, they will often feel withdrawn and frightened. This is why the Giggle Doctors are so important. They offer the chance to smile and giggle again for both the children and their families at their bedside. 

"Dr Snug just came to visit Henry. He laughed and smiled and for 10 minutes the world seemed a better place for him." – A Parent

Dr Jammi recently featured in an article written by 'Proud to Work in Healthcare', highlighting his journey as a Giggle Doctor and the wonderful and brave children he encounters on the way...

 

Why am I Proud to Work in Healthcare?

Even after all these years, I still feel nervous the night before going to work. I don’t know who I’m going to meet, what I’m going to do or what I might see. I go into extremely fragile worlds and I don’t want to be clumsy or cause any harm. The only thing I’m certain of is that I will be very moved and learn something new.

I am a Giggle Doctor for the Theodora Children’s Charity. We’re trained performers who visit children in hospital and try to provide them with a little fun and respite from the unpleasantness of being ill and stuck on a ward. Our job is to listen to, encourage and entertain the children and their families, and provide a space for them to explore their imaginative powers.

"I really do work with some extraordinary people and we learn a huge amount from each other."

I graduated from Giggle School in 2006. I had no idea what to expect when I first started, and to be honest I came into it a little arrogantly. Having studied Fine Art and Theatre and had in my mind that I was going to make serious theatre I didn’t really feel that being a Giggle Doctor fitted with my self-image, but in time it blew me away.

The two-year training programme balances practical needs – such as hygiene, infection control and safeguarding – with performance skills, and it starts with observing an experienced Giggle Doctor at work, which I found an incredible thing to witness. I was shocked to see how the doctors could engage and then play with all the children even though they started in such different emotional places. I remember wondering how they could make it look so easy! I really do work with some extraordinary people and we learn a huge amount from each other.

One of my colleagues is a mindfulness instructor and taught me about accepting the child’s emotional state before trying to play with them. I remember going to Great Ormond Street Hospital with another colleague, Dr Bananas, and visiting a girl who was missing her mum. She was really upset and had no interest in playing, so I suggested that she wrote her mum a letter. I got a postcard and she dictated the most beautiful message, in which she told her mum how much she loved her, how she looked forward to her visits and how happy she felt when she saw her mum’s face. Dr Bananas and I were on the verge of tears. When she had finished we asked her what we should do now. “Let’s go on holiday!” she cried, and very shortly we were pretending to swim at a beach in Spain. Writing the letter had acknowledged and dealt with her homesickness and allowed her to move on from it.

Some children who don’t play immediately are simply shy. With them, I start playing on my own, talking to my puppets, playing with their toys or making a tune with my ukulele. The child is an observer, seeing that it is a safe and friendly environment. As soon as they respond in some way, with a smile or a little chuckle, I gently involve them with the game. Usually by the end they are joining in enthusiastically and we can help them create their own imaginative games. Really we are facilitators in play; our job is to open up the possibility of playing, issue an invitation to play and then follow where the child wants to go! Each Giggle Doctor does this differently and part of our training is developing our costume and character. This doesn’t stop when we qualify and we’re constantly tinkering with our ‘act’. In fact, I think about it all the time; I just find it so interesting.

"It’s amazing to see the difference that we make to the children and we hear some wonderful things from their families."

It has changed my stage work. I used to make theatre for the art world, but since becoming a Giggle Doctor I have wanted my productions to be for everyone. Now I try to cross into the audience’s worlds, just how I have to in hospital with patients and their families..

One of the challenges in this is connecting with children of all ages. You just have to work out what the person needs at that time and communicate to them, “It’s all OK. For this moment, I can handle whatever you have for me.” I went into a ward once and met a 16-year-old girl, who was looking very anxious and immediately asked me if I’d ever had an operation. “No,” I replied, “but my mum has.” She asked me if my mum had been any different afterwards – she was worried that having surgery would change her forever in some way. I reassured her and told her about my mum, who had emerged from the operation exactly the same person she had been before (minus the problem), and my new friend seemed a lot more relaxed.

Some of the best interactions come when I can involve a doctor or nurse in the play. I find it really changes the relationship between the family and the staff. They’re generally very happy to join in, or leave us to play and come back to see the child later, although we always offer to make way for them if they do interrupt us. We’re most effective when the staff see us as part of the team for making the kids feel better.

I feel so humbled by the job. It’s amazing to see the difference that we make to the children and we hear some wonderful things from their families. We uncover hidden talents, get children moving and singing for the first time in months, and most importantly we give them some time where people aren’t focusing on their illness.

 

Thank you again for your generous support and for all of the smiles that you have made possible. If you would like to find out more about the work we do, you can visit our website or sign up to receive our e-newsletter

Giggle Doctors provide laughter and joy and improve the well-being of sick and disabled children during difficult times. We visit 20 hospitals, 3 hospices and 2 specialist care centres accross the country, visiting over 30,000 children a year. That is a huge amount of giggles, thanks to the generosity of our supporters!

Ellie's daughter Sarah has spent a significant amount of time in hospital. Ellie shares how the Giggle Doctor visits have had a positive impact and improved Sarah's experience of hospital...

Why did Sarah first visit the hospital? 

Sarah was admitted to Leeds General Infirmary in early August with a very serious skin complaint and dehydration. Sarah is a very poorly little girl and has spent a considerable amount of her life in and out of hospital.

How did she feel? 

Sarah was in a considerable amount of pain and discomfort and had to be given a large amount of pain killers to keep her comfortable. Sarah was very sad and very upset.

When did Sarah first meet the Giggle Doctors?

Sarah first met the Giggle Doctors three weeks into her latest stay in hospital. After being sad and quiet for so long, and very suspicious of doctors, the Giggle Doctors really cheered her up and made her laugh out loud for the first time in a while. They played ‘silly’ with her and made her feel at ease, comfortable and happy in their company. She realised that the ‘silly doctors’ were there to dish out laughter and fun rather than medicine and injections!

How did the Giggle Doctors make a difference to Sarah's experience of hospital?

They made Sarah realise that it’s not all loneliness and sadness in hospital, it can also be fun and entertaining.

What does Sarah like most about the Giggle Doctor visits?

Sarah definitely loves playing ‘silly’! She just loved the Giggle Doctors being daft, pretending to drop and lose things, making funny noises and pulling faces.

What do you think about the Giggle Doctors?

I think the Giggle Doctors are invaluable. They are perfect at acting out at the child’s level. You can see that they really enjoy making the children laugh and bringing happiness to them.

Thank you so much for supporting the Theodora Children's Charity and for bringing laughter to children who need it most.

One day we hope to be able to bring magical Giggle Doctor moments to all children who need them, and with your help we’re inching ever closer to that dream.  

Giggle Doctors provide laughter and joy to sick and disabled children during difficult times. We visit hospitals, hospices and specialist care centres and often our magical Giggle Doctor moments have a lasting impact for the children visited.

Michaela's heart-warming story is a wonderful example of how a Giggle Doctor visit can make a huge difference. She first encountered the Giggle Doctors as a patient 10 years ago. It had such a positive impact during her hospital stay, that she was later inspired to train and become a hospital Play Leader...

When did you first meet the Giggle Doctors as a child?

I first met the Giggle Doctors when I was 14, almost 15 (that was back in 2005, I’m 26 now)

How did the Giggle Doctors make a difference to your experience of hospital?

They put a smile back on my face. They made the whole experience so much better. Looking back at it now, I don’t remember any of the things that happened to me whilst in hospital or to do with the surgery, but I remember Dr GeeHee coming to cheer me up.

Did the Giggle Doctors influence your choice of career?

A few years after my surgery, when I turned 18, I started working as a Health Care Assistant in A&E Southampton Hospital. I used to love watching what the Giggle Doctors did with the children and how happy they made everyone. A few years later I got a job as a Play Leader and I remember thinking I’m one step closer to being an honorary Giggle Doctor. I even have my own Giggle Doctor name, Dr Bubbles!

Why do you think the work of the Giggle Doctors is so important?

Some of the children on the oncology unit I work on as a Play Leader can be in for ages, so having the Giggle Doctors come in is something to look forward to. The work they do is priceless. They will work with children through procedures, hard times and just be generally entertaining and amazing.

What's your favourite memory of the Giggle Doctors?

This is such a hard question for me to answer, as every time I see them it makes me smile. It is my favourite day of the week.  

Thank you so much for supporting the Theodora Children's Charity and for bringing laughter to children who need it most.

One day we hope to be able to bring magical Giggle Doctor moments to all children who need them, and with your help we’re inching ever closer to that dream.  

Links:

Dr Dotty and Maisie having a giggle
Dr Dotty and Maisie having a giggle

Theodora Giggle Doctors visit children in 20 hospitals across England, including Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Every Thursday two of our specially trained performers visit this hospital, brightening the days of the children and their parents there.

Charlotte got in touch to tell us about the difference the Giggle Doctor visits make to her daughter Maisie...

"Maisie has been admitted to hospital 10 times in the last 15 months (most of which have been for 2 week periods at a time). When she was first admitted she was a little frightened as she didn't know what to expect. The Giggle Doctors really helped to make her relax and forget her surroundings. They are all fantastic.

Maisie absolutely loves the Giggle Doctors. Dr Fab is her favourite and we see her quite frequently at Addenbrooke's Hospital. Maisie's clinic days are on Thursdays, the same day as the Giggle Doctor visits, so every week she looks forward to seeing them. Thursdays are now her favourite days!

All of the Giggle Doctors we have come across have been absolutely FANTASTIC, they change the atmosphere and for the time they are present Maisie has such a fun and memorable time, she really has a 'giggle' and as a parent it is great to see. It makes me smile to see her smiling and laughing with them. They dance around and sing with her, it’s magical to see, she just LOVES them.

Maisie often talks about the Giggle Doctor visits outside of the hospital. They make a big difference to how she views her hospital visits, making the experience more positive.

The Giggle Doctors really are brilliant and live up to their name. For her birthday Maisie even asked for a ukulele so that she could be just like Dr Fab!"

Thank you for helping to fund these magical visits. Every £10 ($15) helps us to bring a smile to another child, like Maisie, going through a challenging time.

Dr Easy Peasy and Dr Bananas
Dr Easy Peasy and Dr Bananas

Feedback from parents and children is extremely important to us. We want to provide a programme that benefits as many children as possible, improving their hospital experience and reducing levels of anxiety.

In January we joined the Giggle Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital for an impact measurement focus day. Dr Easy Peasy, Dr Bananas and their funny friends visit this hospital every Tuesday and bring smiles to around 2,500 children and their families each year.

100% of parents who left feedback on the focus day said that the Giggle Doctors improved their child's mood. 92% of parents said that the visits reduced their child’s distress and anxiety during their hospital stay.

Many parents also chose to leave additional feedback….

“I think it’s a great idea because it put a smile on my daughter’s face while she was having chemo”

 “Very entertaining and valued visit during the waiting period”

“A great service that put a smile on my child’s face. Very engaging and positive. Thank you!”

“Very relaxed and made Max laugh and smile”

We will continue to measure the impact of the Giggle Doctors at the hospitals, hospices and specialist care centres we work with throughout the year.

This year we are also increasing visits to Young Epilepsy, Royal United Hospital in Bath and Leeds General Infirmary. That means lots more smiles for children who need them the most!

Thank you for helping us to bring magical moments to so many children during challenging times.

 

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Organization Information

The Theodora Children's Charity

Location: London - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.theodora.org.uk/​
Project Leader:
Emily Swords
Chief Executive
London, Greater London United Kingdom
$42,642 raised of $552,582 goal
 
340 donations
$509,940 to go
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