Play is an essential part of a child’s life.  It’s how they learn about the world and process feelings and emotions. This is why, thanks to you, the charity funds the invaluable play specialist team.

For frequent patients like Eden-Olive, bonds formed with the play team can last for years. Eden-Olive was born with oesophageal atresia, a condition which left untreated, is incompatible with life.  At only two days old, Eden underwent a life-saving five-hour operation but though it was successful in repairing the problem, it was not a cure and her parents were told that the condition may have much longer-term consequences for their little girl

Eden spent four and a months on the neonatal unit before moving to Island ward, which is where play specialist, Juliet, came into their lives.

When Eden-Olive first arrived on Island ward, mum, Michelle, felt unable to play her little girl.

Michelle said: “She had always been so ill and covered in wires,  I hadn’t been able to truly enjoy her. I was so consumed with fear because we’d been through so much already. The truth is that I was scared.  But Juliet helped me so much. She taught me how to play with Eden and see past the tubes and constant alarms.”

Having been unable to consume food orally for months, Eden-Olive had developed a severe food aversion. Dedicated to break that barrier, Juliet worked tirelessly with Eden-Olive, initially introducing dry minimally smelling food such as bread and cereals. Juliet would place food around her favourite toys and allow Eden-Olive to touch and explore. As the weeks went by, Juliet increased her tolerance by introducing food that had a smell to them. As babies are so inquisitive and will naturally bring their hands to their mouths, Eden-Olive was slowly coming to terms with the new smells and textures on her own terms.

Michelle said: “Juliet dedicated seven months to teaching Eden-Olive, who as well as a severe oral aversion and was afraid to have anything with any kind of texture on her hands. Juliet encouraged her to explore. She had so much patience with Eden and let her know it was also ok to go at her own pace.

Whenever I do messy play with Eden now, I think of Juliet and the love and dedication she showed Eden and I. She will forever be in our hearts. She taught me how to separate the medical rollercoaster I was on with my baby and enjoy play time with her. It was a very difficult time being in hospital for a year with Eden but with wonderful play specialists like Juliet it just makes it all a little easier.”

Eden-Olive is now five and continues to visit the children’s hospital, sometimes for long inpatient stays. As she often has to endure uncomfortable and sometimes even painful procedures, hospital can be a scary place for Eden-Olive, but Juliet has been a constant.

Michelle said: “Juliet always finds us and brings things to occupy Eden-Olive.  As she has grown, we’ve had to adapt how we prepare her for procedures. We used to be able to distract her with her favourite song on the IPAD but, not anymore. Eden-Olive needs everything to be explained to her and to see everything with her own eyes. Juliet does such a wonderful job at explaining things and will often role-play to help prepare her.”