My name is Laura Smith and I have just started as the new Head of Children’s Health and Wellbeing Services at Children’s Health Scotland. My background is in Psychology and I have spent many years working with adults and children with a range of health conditions and feel very passionate about supporting children, young people and their families with health challenges. I am delighted to join Children’s Health Scotland and I am excited to build on the success of the existing Children’s Health and Wellbeing Services.
I wanted to write a blog to introduce myself and also share with you some personal experiences that feel very timely right now during the Coronavirus pandemic.
I know many of you who are parents or carers will be feeling anxious about your child(ren) being away from school, away from friends, and having less time outdoors – and with an uncertain time-frame to deal with. Day to day life has changed dramatically and adults and children will be feeling unsettled and trying to adjust to a ‘new normal’ this week. For those of us with health challenges or complex needs added to the mix, it is easy to feel overwhelmed!
For my own family, these changes to daily life have many parallels to our unexpected journey into a world of hospitals and healthcare a few years ago. In September 2016, my youngest daughter, Poppy, was suddenly paralysed following a rare response to a common virus. Our world turned upside down overnight and we went on to experience nine-months isolated in critical care before we finally returned home. Yet, many memories from this time are positive, and when we talk about it as a family – we are surprised to find that we look back on much of it fondly. It taught us so much about being brave, being resilient, being in the present, and trying to focus on things we can control rather than things that we cannot.
This period in our lives was filled with uncertainty and endless questions, but the biggest lesson I learnt was to take each day as it comes. Focus on today. What could we achieve, no matter how small? What could we do that was fun? What could we look forward to that day?
I know many of you will be feeling pressure around home schooling your children and might worry about their progress. Children and young people in hospital have the right to education, even those who are critically ill, and we were very grateful to receive an hour of 1:1 support a day. The hospital teaching team were amazing but had very limited capacity. For those of you struggling to balance work, childcare, siblings, home-life – I was amazed how much can be achieved with even just an hour a day focused work, and how fast children can catch up in the longer term. My daughter was able to return to school after a year and re-join her peers, and she has such an enthusiasm for school now. I expect most children will appreciate school a lot more after a prolonged period away!
I’m sure that you have all seen the wonderful acts of kindness and community spirit on the news and social media. Every single text, picture, card, letter and offer of help lifted our spirits during our time in hospital more than I can put into words. Being in isolation without social contact was very difficult, but we used technology where we could and tried to stay ‘connected’ with video messages, cards and letters. If you are able, reach out and support one another – it can make the world of difference.
The thing that makes me smile the most when I think back to our time in hospital, is a feeling of togetherness as a family. We weren’t all under one roof for the best part of a year, but now – on the other side – I cherish and miss that time we had together, around a hospital bed, away from the outside world and all distractions. Times are very tough for many people, but I hope that you all get the chance to find a happy moment in the quiet when you can.
We are still working hard at Children’s Health Scotland to think about how we can continue to support children and young people’s health and wellbeing during this difficult time. You can still get in touch with us by emailing email@example.com or by giving us a call and leaving a message on 0131 553 6553. Please be assured your message will reach us and we will be back in touch with you as soon as we can. In the meantime, please keep safe and look after your loved ones.