The first chapter in my story of bringing Upledger Therapy to Great Ormond Street Hospital, London
I have always had a strong social conscience and wanted to be involved in work that makes a contribution to people in society who need help most. To this end I have worked as a dance artist with young male offenders in prisons and adult male prisoners, as a theatre practitioner with adults with learning difficulties, volunteered in Sarajevo as an Upledger Therapist and volunteered at Crisis over Christmas which is a homeless charity in London. Making lots of money from a private practice has never been my focus or interest!
So my social conscience has been poking me the last year or two to go into action again and as a paediatric therapist and paediatric instructor, I decided to offer this wonderful work to families who are very stressed and challenged. Where better than Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, one of the top four children’s hospitals in the world.
But how to gain a foothold? I decided to apply to be one of their volunteers. They have 750 active volunteers working in all areas of the hospital supporting the families and children as well as in admin roles. Apparently they are the gold standard in terms of the volunteer training and opportunities they offer. I called the head of the volunteer department and he said pop in to see him. It was only a short chat later that I was enrolled on the volunteer training course (breathing a large sigh of relief as only 10% of those who apply get through to the training!). The training for all volunteers takes 3 months of learning about the hospital, showing you understand issues such as child protection, data governance, confidentiality and boundaries and is followed by three months probation as a volunteer.
I am in the middle of my probationary period. I spend every Thursday at the hospital. All probationer volunteers work as Guides. We are positioned at different points of entry to the main parts of the hospital to help guide families arriving for appointments, scans, x rays and imaging, surgeries and all kinds of specialist intervention. They have often travelled a long way, sometimes from outside the UK, often with a very sick child and are very stressed, their lives turned upside down. Some families and children are in the hospital for up to a year for example, waiting for a heart and lung or kidney transplant and the rest of their lives, work and siblings often suffer considerably in that process.
The role of the guide is to smile and offer to take them to wherever they need to go and make sure they are ok and have everything they need. It is an absolutely joy doing this as they appreciate the support and help hugely and you feel you have made a tiny difference in a challenging time. We always go the extra mile even if it means walking outside several blocks with a parent to show them where they can get some shopping or a nice quiet cup of coffee.
Although I am not yet doing hands on, I feel very much that I can create a therapeutic presence as we walking the long corridors and go up and down in the lifts of the hospital for the people I meet.
My next step is to do the Upledger work on “Miffy Ward” This is a transitional care ward where children stay for again up to a year who have serious lung/respiratory diseases and cannot breathe unaided. It takes a long time to get these children home as they have to
learn to breathe on different equipment and parents and community carers have to prepare the house and learn how to use all the equipment they will need to survive. They have 5 rooms with one child and all their life support in each room. Initially I will be hands on with the parents only as currently no complementary therapy is offered to the children. But of course my long term intention is to build relationships, inform and educate staff so that eventually I can work with the children themselves on Miffy ward and others, perhaps opening the door to other Upledger therapists in the future.
Watch this space!
Nikki Kenward CST-D 4.2.2015