AN eight-year-old girl with a rare genetic disorder said being shown around the pathology laboratories at Worthing Hospital was ‘just amazing’.
Francesca Evans-Jones, from Lancing, was diagnosed with Fanconi Anaemia in April 2014. Since then, Francesca has made numerous visits to the children’s Bluefin Ward and has given blood there more than 30 times.
But what happens to the blood samples once they are locked into a capsule and sucked up the pneumatic tube located on the ward? Francesca discovered the answer when she was invited on a special tour of the pathology department by staff at the hospital.
Francesca said: “It’s amazing. Before I came here I wanted to know about what they did with the blood and seeing all the machines and what they do is just really amazing.”
The pathology team at Worthing Hospital uses state-of-the-art equipment to process more than 4,000 blood samples a day.
Francesca and her mother, Julia Jones, 44, were shown around by chief biomedical scientist Malcolm Robinson, who leads a project called Harvey’s Gang.
Harvey Buster Baldwin had also had a tour of the hospital’s laboratories before losing a 20-month battle with leukaemia last October when he was just eight.
Following his death, biomedical scientists at Worthing Hospital paid tribute to the brave youngster by naming a brand-new blood grouping machine after him.
Harvey’s mum Claire Baldwin, from Sompting, had told how much the tour had meant to Harvey, which prompted the launch of Harvey’s Gang – a project dedicated to his memory.
When Francesca arrived for her tour, she was presented with a Harvey’s Gang gift bag, as well as a specially-made little white coat personalised with her own trainee scientist name badge.
Malcolm led the tour, which was shadowed by the chief executive of NHS Blood and Transfusion, Ian Trenholm, who was visiting the hospital to find out more about Harvey’s Gang with a view to help roll out the initiative nationwide.
Francesca visited the haematology, biochemistry and blood transfusion laboratories and finally discovered where the blood samples go when sucked up from the children’s ward.
“My favourite bit was the tube,” she said, after being given the opportunity to send some samples back through the computer-controlled pneumatic tube system. When you put the sample in, and type the number it goes straight away to other parts of the hospital. It’s just amazing.
“I’m going to tell my friends about all the bloods I’ve had done and all the machines here that process them.”
Francesca hopes to become a paediatric consultant when older and her mother Julia confirmed how much she had enjoyed the special tour.
She said: “She had a wonderful day, absolutely fantastic and really enjoyable.
“We’ve spent a lot of time as a patient, many weeks and weeks and weeks in hospital, but to see this side of it has been a real eye-opener, just fantastic.
“Now I know exactly where the blood goes after they take it and I am very happy that we are in very safe hands.”
Malcolm said it was a delight to meet Francesca, who he said asked some very informed and challenging questions as she was shown around the department.
“She was absolutely fantastic,” he said.
“She had a smile from ear to ear and asked question after question. It was a phenomenal day, and having the NHS Blood and Transplant chief executive Ian Trenholm down to see us, having a very interested young child and their mum on a tour was awesome.”
Mr Trenholm said: “The team at Worthing Hospital was fantastic and it just goes to show they really care about the patients at the hospital.
“My teams are working closely with the hospital here in Worthing to see if we can roll out this idea of Harvey’s Gang across the country, so that other people can also get the benefit of it.”