What I Learned from Visiting Great Ormond Street Hospital
28th Apr, 2017
I had never seen the inside of Great Ormond Street Hospital before; in fact, I knew very little about it at all other than it’s a hospital dedicated to treating unwell children.
So, when it was announced that we’d be fundraising for GOSH as part of our charity foundation, I thought ‘hey that’s cool, I’ll bake some cupcakes’ and didn’t think much further into it. A month or so later and I find myself invited on a guided tour of the hospital with some of my Your World colleagues, and what I discovered about Great Ormond Street will stay with me forever.
From the moment I stepped foot into the bright reception area, I was in disbelief. Was this really a hospital? Hospitals are never so warm and welcoming. In place of the usual white-walled entrance was an explosion of colour, leaving no trace of the clinical minimalist décor we have come to expect from a hospital environment. This place was completely different; the seats were multi-coloured, the staff wore a friendly shade of yellow and the walls were covered in hand-painted, brightly coloured sea creatures. This felt more like an activity centre than a hospital.
Our tour guide, Jonathan, said hello and proceeded to give our group a brief history of Great Ormond Street and its founder, Dr Charles West, who established the hospital in 1852. Healthcare for children has certainly come a long way since then and much of this is down to him.
When you visit a hospital, you become accustomed to certain things: patients roaming the corridors in dressing gowns, healthcare professionals rushed off their feet, a coffee shop, that weird smell that only hospitals have and so on. What you never expect to see is a fluffy Golden Retriever greeting you with a happily wagging tail – but it’s totally the norm at Great Ormond Street. ‘Rossi’ comes to visit the children regularly, giving young patients a canine friend to pet and play with. It’s amazing how much one dog can make an entire group of adults smile – it makes me smile even more thinking about how the kids must react to him.
The hospital treats sixty-three specialities, the largest number of any hospital in the UK. The facility has more than 400 beds and sees 283,000 patients a year. With numbers like this, you’d expect Great Ormond Street to appear hectic and stressful but (as I’m sure you can guess) you’d be wrong. As Jonathan led us from place to place, I noticed an unusual sense of calm. He later told us that the hospital uses air purifiers to remove the clinical smell and provide a more calming atmosphere to patients and visitors. I was amazed – this was so simple and yet so effective.
We visited the Morgan Stanley Gardens, a small but charming area outside the main building that provides some natural respite from the hospital environment, and one of many areas within the grounds that you can find a Peter Pan themed statue or work of art - (did you know that author, J.M Barrie donated all royalties from the Peter Pan books/plays to Great Ormond Street? You do now!)
With each new area, I found myself more and more inspired by the amazing work the hospital and its fundraisers do. It seemed that everything had been thought of, including the Hospital School, which ensures the children keep up with their studies or don’t miss out on sitting exams, and the Activity Centre, which keeps the siblings of patients occupied so their parents don’t need to worry. We were told about the free accommodation provided to patients’ families because hotels can be so expensive, and the special features put in place to make sure children aren’t too scared when going into surgery.
Jonathan went on to explain that the GOSH charity needs to raise £100m every year to fund life-saving research and clinical trials, as well as bringing in vital equipment and building new wards. Suddenly those cupcakes I made for our company bake sale didn’t seem so insignificant - they weren’t just cupcakes; they were contributing to saving lives.
Our last stop was the hospital chapel. I couldn’t help but wonder why we were ending our tour with something that most hospitals have – surely, it wasn’t anything special. As with everything else at Great Ormond Street, I was blown away with what I saw. The painted scenes on the walls were traditional but without the gloomy themes. The high, domed ceiling was decorated in rich, warm colours. It was breath-taking; a gilded haven that spoke to all people, regardless of religion. Standing in that small, golden room made me feel so overwhelmingly emotional that I find it hard to put into words.
It’s safe to say that I left Great Ormond Street Hospital with a wildly different view to when I went in. The facility, its staff and fundraisers go above and beyond to provide patients with the best possible care in an environment that allows children to maintain their sense of wonder.
I’m extremely proud to be working for an official GOSH fundraiser.
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