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12 February 2019

Ginny’s teddy tonic: Burns nurse hopes new bears will comfort children

Junior sister Ginny Howard
Junior sister Ginny Howard

Children being treated for burns will soon have cuddly new friends to comfort them thanks to an initiative from nurse Ginny Howard.

Junior sister and bear collector Ginny has persuaded soft toy company Charlie Bears to donate to Children’s Burns ward after finding their bears soothing during her own treatment for breast cancer.

For children who have experienced a traumatic event, facing an extended stay in hospital can be unsettling. Ginny hopes by having a furry companion, children can use the bear as an outlet to express themselves when they might not want to open up to medical staff.

The bears will also have a reassuring poem tied around their necks that Ginny has written along with colleagues from the ward and Psychotherapy.

“In May 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and was off work for a year,” said Ginny.  “I started collecting the bears as a distraction to keep my mind occupied and it really helped.

“When I came back to work I thought it might be a good idea to give bears to the children but then I thought, rather than giving them out as presents, there should be a meaning behind them.

“I’d seen worry monsters and decided we should have a worry bear or a sharing bear. Children will sometimes cuddle or talk to a bear when they won’t talk to an adult.”

The idea is that young patients will be able to write or draw their worries and place them in the bear’s paws. At night, parents or nurses can read the messages to get a better idea of what’s concerning the children.

“Older children can be quite angry and have behavioural problems when they’re frustrated. Often they can’t do what they want to, and can’t use their hands if they’re bandaged. I don’t think we even begin to understand what’s going on in their little heads so we thought this might help.

“We’ve combined all of our ideas and written ‘The Sharing Bear Poem’. We had input from Psychotherapy as they’re the experts on what to say and what not to say to children.”

Ginny, who has worked in burns since 1994, says the bears will initially go to longer-term patients and if the initiative is successful, she would like to see it expanded. The idea has been discussed with patients’ parents and so far feedback has been very positive.

Ginny also thanked other members of the team for their contributions.

“Eva – our plastics registrar who has since moved on to Addenbrooke’s – came up with some really good ideas; Nicky Jessop our play specialist has been a great help, as have Becky, Kate and Mandy from the psychotherapy team.”