IT is as moving a collection of pictures as you are ever likely to see, a brief glimpse into the extraordinary world of one of Sheffield’s most extraordinary institutions.
Here there is heartbreaking bravery, unstinting dedication and all the agonised fretting only felt by a 10-year-old boy when he’s about to have a pot removed.
Welcome to life behind the scenes at The Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
These incredible images - taken by three South Yorkshire photographers Andy Brown, Shaun Bloodworth and Richard Hanson - form part of a unique access-all-areas project designed to show-off the invaluable work the centre does.
And from tots coming round after an orthodontist operation to teenagers undergoing chemotherapy, they capture staff, patients and parents as they deal with a range of often traumatic situations.
In one heartstopping image a lone father keeps vigil on his tiny new born child in the neonatal surgical unit. In another a doctor stands, contemplative, seconds before carrying out emergency surgery.
“To say they pack a punch is an understatement,” says Cat Powell, arts for health coordinator with the Western Bank hospital. “By sharing patients, parents and staff experiences, the exhibition hopes to demonstrate that we’re not alone in our anxieties.
“That’s why we called it You’re Not Alone. We wanted the pictures to resonate. We want viewers to reflect on and even celebrate what makes their own experiences of The Children’s Hospital unique.”
The £9,000 exhibition - which has just opened in the hospital’s Long Gallery ahead of a high-profile city centre showcase this summer - is divided into ten sections: Being Brave, Chemotherapy, Isolation, Neonatal Surgical Unit, The Potting Shed, Surgery, Emergency Department, Mental Health, Waiting Room and Staff.
And that means, while there are some heartstopping images - not least of parents consigned to waiting rooms while their children undergo surgery - the trio of snappers have also managed to capture the uplifting, the humorous and even the mundane, such as of a nurse looking for a patient’s record amid a huge bank of files.
“The brief was to communicate with people what went on in the hospital and offer support for patients and families coming here in the future,” says Andy, a 34-year-old photographer based in the city centre.
“Hospitals can be quite mysterious places and this is an attempt to open it up.
“We were given complete access and the response from patients and parents was really positive.
“They appreciated what were doing,
“But there’s no denying it was hard work. When you’re taking pictures in the neonatal surgical unit, it can be emotionally draining, but there was also a certain amount of upliftingness about it. The contrast between these tiny babies and all the technology and dedication of the staff trying to ensure they pull through - you know they’re in the best possible hands.”
For his fellow photographer, Shaun, the project - carried out for two months during last summer and funded by the Arts Council - was particularly poignant. Not only was he a patient there as a tot, he also visited the hospital when his own daughters were receiving minor treatment some years ago.
“I spent my time looking at the hopes and fears parents experience when bringing in their children,” says the 40-year-old from Brinsworth. “What struck me most was the parents feeling of inclusion in the care, decision making and outcome of their child’s condition. It was apparent that becoming part of the extended family of the hospital was an important part of the healing process.”
And what struck Richard was the dedication of the staff.
“I came away with strong impressions of commitment, humour, proactive care and a desire for the children to receive the best possible help,” says the 43-year-old of Pitsmoor. “There’s a definite pride in what the hospital does and a sense of common purpose.”
n To view You’re Not Alone exhibition in person contact Cat Powell at The Children’s Hospital Charity on 0114 2717203 or see it online at www.tchc.org.uk/thelonggallery now. A city-centre showcase will be held this summer at a date and venue to be confirmed.