The difference Ward Grandparents make
For the first two months of little Olivia’s life, Liana barely left her daughter’s side.
Olivia, now almost four months old, was born with Vanishing Gastroschisis which meant that her intestines developed outside her body while in the womb.
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) has been the only home she has known since birth, and it’s since become a second home for Liana and her husband Michael.
At the beginning of her treatment journey, Liana would continuously spend a week straight at the Hospital to be with Olivia until exhaustion eventually hit.
That’s when she met one of our Ward Grandparents, Sue.
Being a hospital parent, I had all this guilt when I went home and so I wasn’t taking essential breaks. It’s been good for me to step away because I need to fill my cup so I can pour it into hers,” Liana said.
“Sue has made a massive difference. It’s comfortable knowing that she’ll be there and take care of Olivia when I’m home. I know that I can rest, have a big sleep in, do the washing, the home chores, or even just relax – and not stress about it."
The Ward Grandparents at the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network (SCHN) play an important role in supporting our patients and families.
As part of the AWCH Hospital Ward Grandparents Program, each of these volunteers come into the Hospitals a couple of days a week to act as a grandparents for some of the patients – like Olivia – who require long-term care.
They visit an individual patient regularly, often sitting with, playing with, cuddling, entertaining and comforting them while giving their Mum and Dad some reprieve from the stress of hospital.
Sue has been a Ward Grandparent at CHW for almost 16 years and while she dedicated so much of her time to the volunteer role, she says she receives far more than she puts in.
It’s a big satisfaction. It is not easy because it is not all about cuddling babies and happy smiling, it can sometimes be very sad. Yet you know that you’re doing something that is worthwhile,” Sue said.
“The parents appreciate it, the nurses appreciate it, and even the consultants appreciate it. You do everything you would do for your own grandchildren.”
Sue has been supporting Olivia and her family for about a month now in Clancy Ward. She plays with her, nurses her to sleep, changes her nappy, feeds her, and gives cuddle time – as well as many other things.
It has lifted a weight off Liana and Michael’s shoulders as they navigate through what has been a challenging hospital journey.
Olivia was found to have Vanishing Gastroschisis at about 19 weeks in the womb, with 75 per cent of her intestines outside of her body. But complications arose during labour as the organ had already started to become necrotic, due to the skin having closed up.
She lost 75 per cent of her bowels, leading to short gut syndrome and has since had other complexities.
Although there is still a challenging road ahead while Olivia is in Hospital and needs total parenteral nutrition (a method of feeding that bypasses the gastrointestinal tract), Liana is hopeful for the future and is grateful for all the support Sue and the treatment team have provided.
“Olivia is a blessing, I wouldn’t change her for the world no matter what she is going through. I wish I could take her pain but at the same time, this will make her stronger,” Liana said.
“Words cannot express how grateful I am for Sue and the difference she has made in this difficult time. It has truly been amazing.”
Ward Grandparents work 2 or 3 days a week for approximately 5 hours per day and may work with a child anywhere from a week to a few months.
If you are interested in becoming a Ward Grandparent at CHW, please contact the Ward Grandparent Coordinator in the Department of Social Work on 9845 2641 or SCHN-CHW-SocialWork@health.nsw.gov.au
For Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, please contact Jess Cooper, Senior Community Relations Officer, on firstname.lastname@example.org