A 10-year-old cancer survivor has praised the hospital play worker who made her feel ‘safe’ and lifted her spirits while she was receiving treatment.
Emilie Austin, of Stockport, Greater Manchester, was just two years old when she was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, an extremely rare form of liver cancer that affects just 10-15 children in the UK each year.
The diagnosis meant Emilie spent months going in and out of hospital in Manchester and Leeds, accompanied by mother Becky, 39.
Speaking today, Emilie, who is now cancer-free, told how she still remember how much she was helped by Lisa Beaumont, 51, the therapeutic and specialist play manager at Leeds Children’s Hospital.
Emilie Austin, of Stockport, Greater Manchester, was just two years old when she was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare form of liver cancer that affects just 10-15 children in the UK each year. She thanked play specialist Lisa Beaumont (pictured) for her support
Speaking today, Emilie, who is now cancer-free, told how she still remember how much she was helped by Lisa Beaumont, 51, the therapeutic and specialist play manager at Leeds Children’s Hospital. Pictured, Emilie in hospital as a toddler
It comes as Lisa is named Starlight Health Play Specialist of The Year by the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Emilie said: ‘Lisa made me feel safe when I was in hospital by caring about me and making me feel good by giving me things to do. They made me laugh and cheered me up lots. Lisa is kind, caring and warm hearted.
‘I want to say thank you for always caring about me and all the other children in hospital. Thank you for giving us things to distract us from being worried and for all the amazing things you do so Leeds can have a children’s transplant team.
‘There wouldn’t be a team without you, and I love being a member of it. The children in hospital are happy because of you. I think you are amazing Lisa and thank you for all you do.’
Emilie was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma in September 2012, by which point it had already spread to the liver. Emilie underwent chemotherapy at Manchester Children’s Hospital from September-December that year.
Mother Becky Austin, pictured with Emilie, noted the support offered by play specialists like Lisa doesn’t just help the patients, but the families too
In January she was admitted to Leeds Children’s Hospital where she received a liver transplant.
Lisa and her team work to support young patients like Emilie and their families through play, stepping into distract the children, answer questions and offer relief to anxious parents.
Lisa explained how it is more important than ever because parents and family members are faced with restricted visiting times due to coronavirus restrictions.
She said: ‘We have just been super creative with our activities, because of visiting being restricted we have offered and supported our families more than ever, and we have worked with the wider team to ensure that when we are there we are supporting the families as much as possible, as a whole as well as the child.
Emilie, pictured, is now cancer-free
‘But we have really tried to focus on and maintain that element of fun and those activities at the bed side when all this has been going on, because they are still children in hospital, and they are still children who are having intense treatment so we just have a real positive focus on being creative, making sure that activities still happen, but obviously following the guidelines that are set by our trust.’
Becky noted the support offered by play specialists like Lisa doesn’t just help the patients, but the families too.
Becky said: ‘Seeing your kid upset and in a state puts you in a state. You might not have the headspace to sit and speak calmly to them when you are upset too.
‘It can be the hardest thing in the world to stay calm and level headed and help your child through that situation in hospital.
‘So when these angels like Lisa float in and take over that role and you can just be their mum and hold their hand and give them hugs it is a priceless service.’
Starlight Children’s Foundation provides a range of services across the country to help support health play specialists and to promote the benefits of play and distraction for children in a hospital setting.
In 2018/19, Starlight reached 1.3 million children in the UK through its hospital services and gave out over 4,000 Distraction Boxes and Boost Boxes packed with activities and toys that seriously ill children can use to play.
What is hepatoblastoma
Who gets hepatoblastoma?
About 10 to 15 children develop hepatoblastoma in the UK each year. The average age at diagnosis is one year and most cases occur before two years of age.
Treatment of hepatoblastoma
Treatment for hepatoblastoma depends on which risk group your child falls into. The treatment usually includes chemotherapy and surgery, and occasionally liver transplantation.
Effects of treatment
The prognosis depends on the risk group of the tumour, but many children with hepatoblastoma are cured.
Source: Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust
Find out more about Starlight Children’s Foundation here.