Operations are child’s play thanks to Gemma

Play specialist, Gemma Probin, with one of her young patients at Blackpool Victoria Hospital


A play specialist has been praised by young patients and families for helping to make operations less stressful.

Gemma Probin from Thornton and her colleagues on the Children’s Ward at Blackpool Victoria Hospital often receive special thank you messages from families.

One recent message was from Giseffemae Hackney, whose son needed an operation. Giseffemae thanked all of the staff on the unit and gave Gemma a special mention.

Giseffemae said: “My son came in for an operation and we were automatically greeted with smiles from every single person.

“The HCAs, nurses, consultants, anaesthetists and everyone in-between explained everything to me. How, what and when things were going to happen to my baby boy. Any concerns I had were listened to and I was put completely at ease. The care given to my son was amazing.

“As he was going in for the anaesthetic a lady named Gemma blew bubbles for him. Bubbles are his favourite thing and calmed him right down ready to go to sleep.”

Gemma explained: “The children always love the bubbles. That day it was all young children. Giseffemae’s family is lovely.

“As with all operations, we prepare the family so they know what to expect. When Giseffemae was there all of the children had little gas masks on. They we all really good on that day.

“They just sat and watched the bubbles. We use bubbles, books and iPads to distract the children.

“Sometimes they like to listen to music or look at our ‘Where’s Wally’ books.
“Every Thursday is ‘Children’s Day’ in the operating theatres. We set up all the toys in the morning and we have stories and colouring books for when they are recovering. We’ve got it down to a t.

Gemma Probin in the play room on the Children’s Ward

“The families seem to be very happy with the care we give. We get some really good feedback from parents. Everyone is really nice – it’s a great team.

“We also help the parents if their child is distressed after the anaesthetic. We look after the parents because it can be quite emotional for them.”

Giseffemae added: “I cannot thank everyone enough for making a scary experience much easier for us all.

“You all work so hard and we sometimes forget how lucky we are to have incredible people willing to do anything to help others each and every day. You are superheroes. Thank you.”

Another mum, Gill Starkey, whose daughter needed to have an operation on her arm, said: “Gemma was brilliant with us.”

Gemma has worked as a play specialist on the Children’s Ward for four years and she has seven play specialist colleagues. Before that Gemma worked in the Happy Days Nursery at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and in the Medical Records department.

She said being a play specialist has always been her dream job: “It’s a brilliant job. It’s hard at times, for obvious reasons, but there is huge satisfaction when you see children going home and feeling better.

“We are their advocates on the ward as well as being play specialists. We can stop a procedure if we don’t think it is being done properly. We look after the children’s welfare. It’s the job I’ve always wanted.”

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