Over the past 18 months, our son Henry has had many visits to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where he’s needed multiple operations. As parents, we could not be prouder of how well Henry has coped with all that he has been through. It’s been such a tough time for the family, but Henry has taken it all in his stride.
One thing that has really helped is the MediCinema at the hospital. After each of Henry’s operations, we have been able to take him to watch a film there. MediCinema became an important part of Henry’s recovery process, taking his mind off being poorly and giving us all quality time together as a family.
The first time we were invited to the MediCinema, I thought the nurses were joking. I remember thinking “Are you not seeing what I’m seeing? No chance.” Henry was too poorly to walk, and he was bedridden, attached to different tubes and machines. Henry was a bit unsure too. Since his operation, a few days before, he was completely fed up. With three or four days of no talking or smiling, I remember asking myself “when will he go back to being Henry again?”
But the nurses explained that he could go in his bed. Any question I had they had an answer for - everything had been thought through - and they made it seem so straight forward. So, we went for it. The nurses on the ward secured all his lines and machines to his bed and the MediCinema team wheeled him down to the cinema.
It was so great to get out of those four walls, where every minute can feel like an hour. And it was such a relief to know there were nurses in the cinema for the whole movie. There’s no getting away from the fact that we were still in hospital, but we could have a change of scenery and be together in a place that didn’t feel medical. I got a break from thinking about it all and found that, after the screening, I felt more myself – more with it – and so better with Henry too.
I didn’t notice the change in Henry at first. But later that day, after the screening, he started talking to me about the film. He hadn’t been himself since the operation, but when he spoke about the characters, he started to smile again for the first time. His nurse included his MediCinema trip in her handover notes that day, and when the news spread around the ward he got right into telling everyone else about it all too. Nurses, consultants, cleaners, would say: “I hear you’ve been to the MediCinema?”, or “I’m so jealous you’ve been to see that film! What was the best bit?” From Henry’s point of view, they were talking to him on his level, about something that wasn’t medical. He was just a kid having a normal conversation. To have that sense of normality really helped his recovery from a mental point of view. It helped him get back to himself. Nurses would say “I’ve never known him so chatty!” because he had been so fed up before. But he’d become our chatty 4-year-old again. I realised just how much MediCinema had really cheered him up and how just getting off the ward had made such a huge difference to his mood and ours.
Our latest visit to the MediCinema was a really different experience due to Covid. During the first couple of hospital stays it was pre-Covid so we could pop to the hospital play areas or the café. We had even been able to bring Henry’s brother, Arlo – who was six months old at the time – to the MediCinema, so Henry could watch his second film in hospital, but with his whole family! This time most things were closed and me and my partner, Matthew, couldn’t swap over, so once we’d made the decision that Matthew, would stay at home with Arlo and I would stay in hospital with Henry, we weren’t able to see each other for a week. It felt like the longest week ever.
Then Henry saw the poster for Trolls World Tour and he was so excited. It’s one of his favourite films and he had even brought his Trolls blanket with him to the hospital. We were so happy when we found out that we had a space at the screening that afternoon. Henry had only just started walking again and so the volunteer brought a wheelchair to the ward. He took one look at it and said: “I’m not going in that. No, I’ll walk.” He was adamant and I still remember the look on his face! But he did it … he walked the whole way, the furthest he had walked in five days. There we were: Henry with his PJs, slippers, dressing gown and Trolls blanket, me checking he was okay and being told he was fine, and the MediCinema volunteer walking along with us, pushing the empty wheelchair the whole way.
Because of the Covid precautions in place, it was a very different experience to the times we’d been before, but it was in no way compromised. The nurses and the MediCinema staff had thought of everything. And because of everything that was going on, being able to go made even more of a difference – it felt even more valuable than before.
If your child is in hospital, things can get on top of you. MediCinema gave us a chance to get away from all things medical for a bit. We would get back to the ward after watching a film and it didn’t feel like we had been away for a couple of hours – it felt like we had been gone for so much longer. Each time we were welcomed back onto the ward it would be all smiles and questions about our trip to the cinema and things wouldn’t feel quite so doom and gloom anymore. And being able to see the change in Henry since that first MediCinema visit has been amazing; from being wheeled down in his bed, quiet and poorly, to the volunteers bringing him down to a screening in a wheelchair, to most recently seeing Henry walking confidently all the way from the ward to the cinema to see Trolls World Tour. The whole experience, and the care from everyone involved, helped bring our Henry back.