Occupational Therapy transformative for young patients
Performing everyday tasks independently is an instinct that comes without a second thought for most young people. But for 13-year-old Jackson, there is great joy to be found in life’s simple tasks like getting out of bed and walking to the mailbox.
Jackson was diagnosed with a brain tumour in early 2023 and spent the following months undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick (SCH).
He also required three surgeries, including having a shunt placed in his brain.
When the hospital's occupational therapy team began treating Jackson, he had lost the function of his body's right side and could no longer stand or walk.
Occupational therapist Hannah Goman worked with Jackson to help him regain the ability to do everyday tasks, like getting out of bed, standing up, dressing and showering.
Jackson was eventually able to reach an incredible milestone in his recovery - he was able to walk again, unassisted.
When I got home the first time, I walked to the mailbox and back on my own, and everyone was so happy," said Jackson.
"I can now walk around, pick up and carry stuff, go to the bathroom by myself and check the mailbox. Occupational therapy has helped me a lot and I don't think I would have come this far without it.”
The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network’s occupational therapy teams support patients like Jackson with motor skills, daily tasks, play skills, sensory processing and adaption back into the home, school and community.
Our role is to get children to do what they want and need to do, and it’s something I’m passionate about supporting our patients in every single day," said Hannah Goman.
"We help children and young people like Jackson adapt to daily tasks when they are not quite able to do them like they used to and assist with equipment, wheelchairs and shower chairs."
Occupational Therapy Week begins on October 23 - celebrating and educating the community on the vital role therapists play in helping children engage with and participate in their community following illness.
Therapy supported in our new hospitals
Patients will benefit from new multi-purpose therapy rooms planned for Sydney Children's Hospital Stage 1 and Minderoo Children's Comprehensive Cancer Centre (SCH1/MCCCC) and the Paediatric Services Building (PSB) at The Children's Hospital at Westmead.
Flexible in their design, the spaces will accommodate up to two patients and include storage to support different allied health teams.
The rooms also emphasise natural light and include outdoor spaces for therapy.
It’s going to be a really positive change, especially for children who need a lot of intervention; just having the space to use equipment and run an uninterrupted therapy session would be amazing.” said Hannah Goman
“For a lot of our kids, they have sensory considerations as well, so being able to run therapy in a calm and predictable space will enhance our service provision”
Designed for all allied health disciplines, SCH Nutrition and Dietetics Head Kate Dehlsen said the flexible rooms will allow staff to run educational sessions with patients and families.
"From a nutrition and dietetics perspective, the goal of therapy rooms is to be able to do group therapy and have flexible spaces so we can provide practical education, such as food prep, label reading and shopping guides," said Ms Dehlsen.
"It will ultimately feel like a safe and accessible space for patients to come and improve their health."
The new hospital buildings will include play and recreation rooms designed to suit children of all ages, quiet rooms and staff hubs for team meetings, planning and individual work.
The PSB will have seven therapy rooms, and the SCH1/MCCCC will have five rooms, plus playrooms, quiet rooms and staff hubs.
The two buildings are made possible by the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation. The Foundation has made a generous commitment to raising $75 million dollars for the SCHN redevelopment projects.