Wacky Wednesdays: Working with National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville

Children and young people

As you’ve no doubt heard, this year is Back Up’s 30th anniversary. It’s a special year for us and we’re taking the opportunity to focus on a different area of the charity’s work each month.

This month, we are focusing on the work we do with children and young people and in particular the work we do with St Francis ward at the National Spinal Injuries Centre in Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury.

We’ve been fortunate enough to work with the staff and patients in St Francis since its opening in 2004.

It’s the first and only specialist ward in UK dedicated solely to the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of children and young people with spinal cord injury. Every year, they see over 130 young people with spinal cord injury.

The ward is unique and the staff and specialists do incredible work fulfilling a vital service. Children and young people with spinal cord injury are still growing and have additional needs, not just physical but also social, environmental and emotional. The pediatric team address all of these areas with a view for all young people to transition seamlessly into adult spinal cord injuries services.

Their mission is “to provide a rehabilitation service that is family centred, that responds to changing developmental needs to achieve the best function, participation and growth throughout childhood.”

Here at Back Up, we value the special relationship we have with St Francis. Since early 2012, we’ve organised regular evening sessions for the children on the ward. The sessions give the children and parents the opportunity to talk to people who have experience living with spinal cord injury and also gently help them see what might be possible in the future.

Hospital staff asked young people what they wanted more of and they identified more evening activities – Wacky Wednesday was born.  It happens once a month and is first and foremost great fun. Someone from Back Up, with experience of living with a spinal cord injury, visits the families on the ward and together, with the help of the young people, decide on the evening’s activities. Very often this will involve cooking and a trip to the local supermarket for ingredients.

Sister Sara O’Shea says:

“The sessions are a great opportunity for the children and parents to interact with each other in a more social situation”.

She also feels that because people with spinal cord injury run the sessions they have a real impact on the children and parents’ future outlook. The sessions build team work, communication and confidence – with the focus firmly placed on what the young people can do. They are also a fantastic opportunity to talk about Back Up’s services and answer some of the many questions the parents and young people have.

On recent Wacky Wednesdays the children have baked scones for a cream tea to celebrate the Queen’s birthday (with authentic Cornish clotted cream!), had ‘pimped up’ pizza with strawberries and cream for Wimbledon and most recently two young lads cooked paella for the whole ward (nurses too).

To see the success of the partnership between St Francis and Back Up, you need only look at the faces of the children and staff after a belly full of delicious food prepared by the young people on the ward for Wacky Wednesday. In the future both Sister O’Shea and Back Up would like to look at increasing the number of Wacky Wednesdays we do. Of course if we change the day, we’ll be looking to the children to help us out with a new name!