Former Strictly Come Dancing judge and Hot Gossip choreographer Arlene Phillips makes an appeal on behalf of the Theodora Children's Trust.
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Hospitals can be a daunting place, particularly for children,
away from home and their loved ones.
When I was 15, my mother was diagnosed with leukaemia
and I spent days in hospital visiting her.
I got to know a young girl in the next bed
who told me how lonely she was on the ward.
Her words have stayed with me and have made me want to do all I can
to help the millions of children who are admitted to hospital every year.
Five-year-old Ruby suffers from a very severe form of asthma.
Her first attack came when she was just two months old.
She was breathing quite strange, sort of not what we'd heard before.
She was really struggling to catch her own breath.
At one point it was like, is she going to stop breathing?
Her parents, Phil and Trudie, rushed her to hospital
where she spent nine days in intensive care.
To see such a tiny little baby that ill...
words can't explain how upsetting and how worrying
and horrific that time was for us.
Ruby was diagnosed with severe asthma and has since needed a lot of medical help.
The last few years for Ruby has been in and out of hospital.
Whether it's for an admittance because of her poor breathing,
because of tests that she's got to have.
She's brave but just before she gets very tearful and very upset.
For any parent, watching a child suffer in hospital,
it can be unbearably hard.
For the child, away from familiar faces and surroundings,
it can feel like there is very little to laugh about.
Theodora Children's Trust is a charity
that wants to give children in hospital a reason to smile.
It funds professional entertainers
to visit children's wards around the UK, bringing joy and laughter
to those who need it most.
Polly is one of 23 entertainers employed by the charity.
She's a nursery nurse and children's entertainer,
but working with the charity requires very different skills.
Sometimes I'm working with children in intensive care,
or are just really sick after operations, or after treatments.
You're not going in to do a set act. It's very tailored to that child.
The entertainers are known to their patients as Giggle Doctors
and each one of them takes on a character.
Polly becomes Dr Yo-Ho, a pirate.
To get in to character, I put on my make-up and under-costume
and then do my hair and then, last of all, I put my coat on
and then, well, then I'm Doctor Yo-ho.
The charity knows that sensitivity and understanding are vital
when dealing with children in hospital.
All of the entertainers receive extensive training
from paediatric specialists.
This helps them to tailor their routine
to the particular needs of each child.
Today, the patients on this ward have a visitor.
I thought I'd do a little bit of magic, Josie.
Could you hold my magic banana?
That's lovely, thank you very much. That's lovely.
If you could hold onto that for me. That's it.
I've got pictures here, these little cards.
Shall we change them with the magic banana?
Hang on, I don't think a magic banana's right, you know.
I think we need something else.
How about, ooh! I know, I know, how about a magic wand?
Do you think that's the right? Here, swap you.
'Humour is incredibly important'
and there are so many studies showing that laughter actually is
a very good medicine and a form of therapy.
And when the entertainers are around,
you can see the children light up, you can see the improvement.
It clearly makes a difference.
Ruby is back at hospital today for a blood test.
She is on so much medication,
her consultant frequently needs to check her toxicity levels.
But the tests are painful.
What Ruby doesn't know is the charity has sent Polly to see her.
Hiya! Hello, it's very nice to see you.
Wow! I love your boots,
they are absolutely gorgeous.
Do you know what, I've lost my friend, Colin the Shark.
I don't know where he is. He's completely gone.
-I don't know where he is.
-Pardon, is he behind me, is he?
I'll have to keep looking. Yeah, cos you haven't seen him at all.
-Have you seen him, Ruby?
-He's on your head!
-He's gone to bed? Is he a bit tired?
-He's on your head!
Hang on a minute... Oh! He's on my head.
I didn't realise he was on my head. Ruby, you didn't tell me.
It's time for Ruby's appointment but she no longer seems that concerned.
Will you look after the giraffe for me? Is that all right?
Thank you for letting me play, you've been very, very kind.
The stress and worry of having a child in hospital
affects not just parents but brothers and sisters too.
The charity's entertainers understand this,
so they create special moments for the whole family to share.
This is Sally-Anne with her husband Richard
and three children, Gracie, George and baby Archie.
Last year, Gracie was diagnosed with pneumonia
and spent two weeks in hospital.
The first couple of days were the worst. She was completely, um...
kind of lifeless at that point. You know, that was really worrying.
Gracie's four-year-old brother George found it very hard.
He's always been so close to Gracie,
I don't think he understood what was going on.
And I think he cried quite a few times.
One afternoon when he was there, an entertainer visited the ward.
As soon as she came in, it lit the room up. It was amazing.
She came in with all her bag of toys and her silly voice
and it was just fantastic, it changed the atmosphere completely.
She was quite funny.
I quite liked it when she was there.
He put his hand in the pocket and there's a honky thing
and he touched our nose and he pressed it
and it made a squeaky noise
and he made some sticky bubbles and he called it elephant snot.
Definitely that was the first time she smiled since going into hospital.
She was just amazed by it, really amazed by it.
George just thought it was the best thing ever.
They were just captivated by, you know, the little world she created.
The entertainer made such an impression on Gracie and George
that last summer they organised a cake sale
to raise money for the charity.
The money they raised paid for an entertainer
to visit five more patients.
Entertainer Polly is about to perform to another patient
and I've come to take a look.
Put your nose on, mate, we've got to have the nose on.
That would be lovely, shall we test it? Come on, then.
'Our aim, when we visit children,
'is obviously to make them laugh,'
to just give them respite from the experience they're going through.
'It's all about really giving the child
'something positive and wonderful.'
It made the difference.
At first it was miserable
and then she swapped over
and, with a different way,
very slowly, we had a sad face, then a straight face,
then a happy face, then a really cheesy grin and a laugh.
Nearly two million children are admitted to hospital each year
and yet the charity is only able to visit one child in every 40.
The Theodora Children's Trust wants to bring a smile
to the face of every child in hospital
and, with your donation, they could make that happen.
Please donate by going to the website bbc.co.uk/lifeline.
If you don't have access to the internet, call 0800 011 011.
If lines are busy, please keep trying.
Calls are free from most landlines.
Some networks and mobile operators will charge for these calls.
If you'd like to post a donation,
please make your cheque payable to Theodora Children's Trust
and send it to Freepost, BBC Lifeline Appeal.
Remember, if you're a UK tax payer,
the charity can collect Gift Aid on your donation worth another 25%.
Just send in a note
to say you want your donation to be subject to Gift Aid
and include the date, your full name and address.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Former Strictly Come Dancing judge and Hot Gossip choreographer Arlene Phillips makes an appeal on behalf of the Theodora Children's Trust, a charity which sends entertainers to children in hospital to bring fun and laughter to the wards. Arlene goes to the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital, one of 17 hospitals that Theodora giggle doctors visit, to help Dr Yo Ho on her rounds as she creates some magical moments on the ward.