VISITING the hospital can often be a frightening and stressful experience for children.
To help ease the journey to recovery for young patients, a team of volunteers donated more than 300 toy puppies to the paediatric unit at Calvary St John’s Hospital in South Hobart.
Made possible through 12-months of fundraising efforts and donations from the general public, the toy puppies were created in the image of Calvary’s long-serving hospital dog, Millie Mae.
The labrador, who died in 2014, lived with The Little Company of Mary.
For 10 years she visited the hospital’s sick and elderly alongside sisters Juliana Coulson and Pauline Ransom.
Calvary volunteer manager Carolyn Whamond said the benefits of toys as a therapeutic tool to assist in paediatric care were well known.
“Millie Mae is there to provide comfort to the children,” she said.
“Whenever medical staff need to perform a test or procedure, Millie Mae will receive the test first so the child is able to see exactly what’s happening and knows everything is going to be okay.
“Millie Mae and her owners become great friends and the child’s anxieties are lessened.”
One of the first patients to receive a Millie Mae toy was seven-year-old Lilian, who had an operation to remove her tonsils on Monday 25 July.
Ms Whamond said Millie Mae accompanied Lilian through every step of the process from pre-op to recovery.
“Millie Mae went with Lilian to the operating theatre and when I visited Lilian afterwards she was still cuddling her, which shows that the children absolutely love them,” she said.
With up to 1000 children admitted to St John’s every year, Ms Whamond said she hoped the Millie Mae program would be an ongoing venture.
“Children coming into hospital will never go away unfortunately, but I really hope we can make their time here as stress-free as possible,” she said.
“It’s also really special to see the volunteers’ faces when they know that their giving has been received and is being used to do something worthwhile.”
Calvary was founded in 1885 by the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary and is a charitable, not-for-profit Catholic health care organisation.
Caption: Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, Pauline Ransom, left and Juliana Coulson, far right, present the toy pup to Lilian, centre, who is joined by her grandmother Katharine Waterworth and mum Julia Waterworth.