Meet Ava. In 2021, having suffered for a long while with headaches, nausea, dizziness and joint pain; Ava was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation – a rare congenital condition where the brain tissue pushes down into the spinal canal.
Ava underwent a number of MRI scans and neurosurgeons decided that she needed complex surgery to ease the symptoms. Last year, she endured two spinal decompression operations at the RHCYP and spent 40 nights in hospital between September and December, including staying in over Christmas.
She regularly attends various hospital departments as an outpatient, including occupational healthy and physio to build up her strength.
Mum Cara says: “Ava has been through a lot but has dealt with everything so brilliantly. Having her second operation on 21st December meant that our family were in hospital in the run up to and over Christmas but the nurses and doctors made it so special.
Cara, Ava's mum
“It was a strain on us all with one of us having to stay at the hospital with Ava and the other having to be at home with her brother Kai, so we were really grateful that our extended family pulled together to help.
“During Ava’s first inpatient stay, we were invited to go down to ECHC’s Hub to meet one of the Therapet dogs. From then on, Ava was at the Hub almost every day!
“She had a great time accessing things like virtual reality, arts & crafts, workshops with the zoo, clown doctors and more. This was a fantastic distraction from the day to day stress of being in hospital and really helped Ava recover physically and emotionally.
“It was also great when Ava’s little brother came to visit as the Hub was somewhere they could go together and make special memories.
“When Ava wasn’t well enough to go down to the Hub, the ECHC team even brought the activities to her bedside! She now attends the charity’s weekly Youth Group, where she can mix with likeminded kids who have been through similar experiences – having fun and also helping with her recovery.
“Each member of staff at the Hub has been so welcoming, caring and just like a big family. Knowing there is somewhere so friendly and welcoming that she can go really helps to make her hospital appointments that little bit easier.”
The Hub is our home-away-from-home within the hospital – a place for families to go for a break from the wards for activities, a chance to offload or just a hot cuppa and a biscuit.