“When I am asked what it is that drew me to working with children, I tell people that their joy and their resilience is driven by their sense of wonder, all too often forgotten in adulthood,” says Prof Alan Davidson, head of haematology-oncology at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
Davidson was speaking at Reach for a Dream’s handover of two new “Dream Rooms” – a revamped day room in the oncology ward and a playroom in the surgical ward – on Wednesday 18 September.
The rooms offer children, and parents, a safe space to go and escape from their clinical surroundings.
Big Concerts and Reach For A Dream joined forces to create the first of these rooms in Cape Town children’s hospitals.
Heidi Rowley, Western Cape branch manager for Reach for a Dream, says here the children can have fun, read and play.
“Eventually, there will be 30 such rooms at hospitals which provide critical care to children with life-threatening illnesses between the ages of three and 18.”
Justin van Wyk, chief executive officer of Big Concerts, and his wife Karen say the Dream Room initiative is close to their hearts. The promoter of live entertainment events has supported the foundation since 2015. But the Van Wyks’s involvement became a lot more personal when their daughter, Annabelle (now 5), was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of three and a half.
“We had just moved into our new home. Adrian (now 7) and Annabelle were so excited about having their own rooms for the first time. Then Annabelle was diagnosed. A day later, she was admitted to Red Cross hospital. We went from this warm and fuzzy environment to a clinical one.”
Justin says the experience was pretty scary. They spent three weeks in hospital followed by another six weeks a year later.
“When Mervyn Serebro (national chairman for the foundation) announced the initiative at the gala event last year, it resonated with me and Karen,” he says.
In addition to the two Dream Rooms, the reception area at the oncology ward also got a makeover. It now boasts a play area complete with new chairs, tables and toys.
When it comes to the surgical ward’s new playroom (which includes an Xbox), Sister Nomsa Nxu, operational manager: nursing, says she is not sure who was more excited: her or the children.
“The Dream Room’s purpose is twofold. Yes, it’s for the children, but it is also a place where tired moms, who often stay up the whole night – worrying about their children – can go to rest for a bit.”
The handover comes hot on the heels of the upgrade of the hospital’s oncology-haematology unit. The unit now sports state-of-the-art ECG monitors, private consulting rooms, isolation areas and a counselling room for a social worker. It also includes ablution facilities for families, a renovated filing room and a bigger nurses’ tea room.
Big Concerts also contributed generously to this project driven by the Children’s Hospital Trust (CHT).