Behind the scenes at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, a close-knit team are delivering a unique service to youngsters in need of their help.
Based at the Ryegate Children’s Centre on Tapton Crescent Road in a small workshop and fabric room, this group of workers are dedicated to helping children with brain injuries, severe physical disabilities and burns.
They create specific pieces of equipment tailored to individual children – covering everything from sewing special garments for children with severe burns to help their scars heal to building unique chairs to help disabled youngsters sit upright.
With many of the items, including the burns garments, the team frequently have to replace them every few months as children grow.
The handcrafted items can be made within hours in urgent cases, with the team working with different departments at the children’s hospital to meet each child’s needs.
Each individual item has a special purpose – designed to either aid recovery or to allow children to live as normal a life as possible.
It has a massive impact on recovery rates. You can’t buy these things from anywhere else.Dawn Syron-Jones, occupational therapy technician
They create things from supportive pillows for premature babies to specially-adapted seats for youngsters with cerebral palsy which allow them to sit up in a comfortable way that aids their growth and minimises their physical discomfort.
Last year, they made over 1,600 unique items, including 442 burns garments.
They are created in a way that matches their needs, so if a medical condition means a child is tilting to the left when in a wheelchair, a cushion placed in the correct position provides the right level of support.
Dawn Syron-Jones, an occupational therapy technician who is part of the team, said: “Everything we do is bespoke, a one-off. It is unique. We are providing items for a vast array of different departments and different needs. It has a massive impact on recovery rates.
“You can’t buy these things from anywhere else. Other places have to order garments in general sizes and they can take a couple of weeks or a month to arrive.”
As part of their work, they personalise items for the children by sewing on logos such as teddies, animals and footballs – taking care they are the right colour for Sheffield Wednesday and United-supporting families.
Dawn said: “We think very carefully about the colours we use. We try to make sure it fits into their environment, which is crucial.
“In Sheffield, it has got to be the right colour football!
“Dads would say ‘I’m sorry, I’m not having that in my house!’”
Dawn said the uniquely tailored items can make a big difference to the lives of the children who use them.
She said therapists who work with the children they have made items for keep them up to date with progress, while the team do get to know some of the youngsters and their families as they do fittings and home visits to install equipment. Colleague Rachel Orridge, who is also an occupational therapy technician, said it can be an emotional experience when the specially-created garments and items are handed over.
She said: “When you hand something over to the parents, they are a bit overwhelmed sometimes.
“People ask ‘Have we got to pay for this?’ They can’t believe you are giving it to them.”
Woodwork technician Matthew Silverwood, who makes things to allow children to use an ordinary toilet, said it is an incredible feeling to create something that will make a difference.
Matthew said: “Just seeing a child’s face when you have done something for them is amazing.”