Meet Ted and his teddy - the masked bear helping him feel safer with his care
Ted is a lively three-year-old boy who loves people and life to the full. Ted has Down Syndrome and accesses Solent’s Children’s Therapy Service. Due to his health needs, he was advised to shield during the original lockdown restrictions, earlier this year. However, when he finally went out for a routine bladder screening at the Queen Alexandra Hospital (QA) in Portsmouth, things didn’t quite go to plan.
Ted’s mum Alice explained: “Ted absolutely loves people and usually attends all of his medical appointments without a fuss.
“When we arrived at the QA hospital and set eyes on the staff in their full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which included a full gown and visor, he became really distressed and was screaming. It was a really traumatic experience for us both.
“Later on, we had an appointment with a play therapist. The whole waiting room is full of soft play furnishings and it’s very bright, warm and inviting. However, when Ted saw the play therapist coming towards him in full PPE, he became upset again and tried climbing back into his pushchair, which is really unlike him.
“We concluded that it could have been the masks that were frightening him. During his shielding, he hadn’t been out and seen anyone with masks. He’d returned to nursery, but they don’t wear masks there and we obviously don’t wear them in the house, so he really hadn’t witnessed people wearing masks.”
From the start of the pandemic, all healthcare workers have been required to wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) whilst working with patients, to protect themselves and those they are treating. However, it soon became evident that some children were a little anxious about attending assessments where people were wearing facemasks and full PPE.
Solent NHS Trust, which provides community and mental health services for adults and children across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, put a call-out on its social media channels asking people to make masked bears for frightened children. The scheme took off, and people and community groups began sending in hundreds of bears.
One of these people was Suzy Jackson. Alice spotted Suzy’s appeal on social media and decided to get in touch.
“When I read Suzy Jackson’s post calling for knitters to make masked bears for frightened children, I took the plunge and contacted her about Ted,” Alice said.
“It felt a little cheeky to ask for a bear because Suzy was calling for people to help make the masks not have them! She was so lovely and the bear she provided even came with the same burgundy scrubs that Ted’s medical team in the hospital wear. His bear, which he takes everywhere, comes with a removable mask. It seems to have made a difference as he realises that the mask goes up and down and that you can see real people behind the mask. We haven’t been back for the bladder scan yet, so we’ll have to wait and see if how much Ted’s masked bear helps.”
Suzy is a retired NHS Regional Manager of GP Surgeries, Walk-in Centres and Psychological Therapy Services. Below she explained how she got involved.
She said: “As Chair of Titchfield Jubilee Surgery Patient Participation Group, I have a lot of contacts. So, when my neighbour told me about the appeal, I decided to put a post out on Facebook to see if anyone would be interested in making the bears. The response was extraordinary. We heard from groups such as Voice4Titchfield, Voice4Whiteley, Voice4Fareham, Voice4Warsash and the Stubbington Matters.
“Most of the people that made the bears have been shielding so it’s wonderful that they feel they have contributed to something so wonderful and worthwhile. It’s helped them through a difficult time. We sourced crochet patterns too so that everyone could take part. Everyone had a role to play. One lady contacted me and said she wasn’t good at constructing the body parts together. Well, I prefer doing that bit, so I got her to send me all sorts of legs and arms through the post and I happily stitched. It’s been delightful! “
It has been an amazing response to a call out that originally came from Mia Wren, Operations Director for Children and Families at Solent NHS Trust. She explained how the idea came about and how it has helped many young children.
She said: “We recognised that young children who were having face to face contact with health professionals may feel daunted by the fact that they were now having to wear PPE. So, we thought if we were able to offer them a teddy in PPE for them to have that it might help ally their anxiety. We have had an incredible response and received well over 100 teddies coming in and they are still arriving!
“We place them in a sealed bag for a minimum of 72 hours to ensure no cross-contamination. We have used the teddies in Therapies service, Looked After Children and Child Protection Services, and Community Paediatric Medical services.
“We want to give a huge heartfelt thank you, to all the people that have helped to make masked teddies. There have been so many contributors from across the Solent region. Their care and attention in making these teddies have gone a long way to helping young children make sense and feel safe in these very challenging times. It has been an overwhelming response and it makes us all feel proud of the communities who are supporting us.”
If you would like to get involved with making either a knitted or crocheted masked bear, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the knitting patterns. Please send your finished bears to Mia Wren, at the Adelaide Health Centre, Western Community Hospital, Southampton, SO16 4XE