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Children’s Hospital therapy garden launched with Christmas cheer

18th December 2023

Finlay Pollock and Guy Smith who turned on the Christmas Tree lights with Santa, pictured with Play Therapists Michelle Miller, Geraldine Lavery and Jenne McDonald.

Santa, a glorious rock choir and a throng of staff and children brought sparkle to the Christmas tree light ceremony at The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children as it launched its new therapy garden.

Finlay Pollock, a heart patient at Clark Clinic in the hospital, and Guy Smith, a long-term patient, helped cut the ribbon at the garden’s door and were met by a beaming and jolly Santa Claus ready to talk about their Christmas list and hand out some extra presents.

The Children’s Hospital garden has had a considerable redesign to make it a brighter more useable space for sensory play, allowing patients time outside for fresh air and a break from their ward.

Paediatric Respiratory consultant Dara O’Donoghue said: “There was such a vibrant and fun atmosphere when we opened the garden and Santa turned on the lights with the children. It was a great way to start the Christmas season here at the hospital. Our staff have gone to tremendous effort to make this a really special place because this hospital not only treats children’s physical conditions but we want them to feel happy with their surroundings and benefit from sensory play outdoors.

“As we are all working through play, to encourage rehabilitation and treatment, this is a good place to do it as an extension of the clinical area. The space is here for children to engage with our play therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, using equipment such as balls and hoops to encourage mobility. They will have so much more space now to enjoy these activities and we have the flexibility to adapt the area to reflect the changing seasons throughout the year. We would like to thank the Helping Hand charity and the accountancy firm BDO for their financial contributions to the project.”

Joanne McCallister, Chief Executive of the Children’s Heartbeat Trust said: “Children’s Heartbeat Trust is delighted to be one of the main funders of the hospital’s new garden, contributing £26,500 with the support of HSBC. Many of the children we support with congenital heart disease, will often have prolonged stays in hospital, particularly post-surgery, so having access to a safe, fun outdoor space will be amazing for both the children and their parents.”

The Children’s Hospital on the Royal Hospitals site is the only hospital in Northern Ireland dedicated specifically to the care of children. It provides general hospital care for children living in the Belfast area and provides most of the paediatric regional specialities for children throughout Northern Ireland including palliative care. The hospital has its own Emergency Department, and includes services such as Paediatric Intensive Care, Specialist Surgery and Medical Specialties such as Neurology and Cystic Fibrosis.

The hospital also provides a regional service to children up to the age of 16 from across Northern Ireland who have been diagnosed with cancer or a haematological disorder. The Children’s Haematology Unit specialises in providing care and support to children and their families with a haematological disorder.