Easing the trauma for youngsters

Tracy Foster pictured with Jaxon Fairclough, 4.
Tracy Foster pictured with Jaxon Fairclough, 4.
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Knowing she can make a difference and put a smile on children’s faces is enough for Tracy Foster to go the extra mile in her role supporting families and youngsters affected by burns.

Mrs Foster and her team put parents at ease, comfort children and distract them as painful procedures are carried out in her job as a Play Specialist at the Regional Burns Unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

In 2017, she was awarded British Empire Medal for services to burn and scald rehabilitation for her work, which includes raising thousands of pounds to take youngsters on residential trips.

Mrs Foster said her work with families starts as soon as they arrive at the unit, which serves a population of around 3.5m people in Yorkshire and Humber.

She said: “First of all, if I’m able to be there I will support parents straight away.

“Because doctors are running around saying what procedures are needed it’s a strange language for the parents to understand.

“Because we’re a regional burns unit somebody might be burned in Hull and be transferred to Pinderfields. They are in a strange hospital and have had to travel miles.”

A key part of Mrs Foster’s job is distracting youngsters so dressings can be applied to their burns.

She said: “When the children go for a dressing, the first dressing a child has is the memory they are going to have.

“I try to get them enough pain relief and distract them as much as possible.

“That could be by singing or reading stories.”

Mrs Foster encourages children to imagine places they love to help them forget they are in hospital. “We have had some children who haven’t realised they’ve had the dressing put on,” she said.

Among methods of keeping youngsters calm when having procedures carried out is a miniature Mercedes-Benz which takes them to theatre.

Mrs Foster said: “When children know they are going for another procedure they can get very upset and tell their parents they don’t want to go.

“But once they get in the Mercedes it’s totally different.”

In her own time, Mrs Foster takes youngsters to camps where they take part in activities like abseiling and kayaking, make friends and get the support of others who have experienced burns.

She leads fundraising efforts which bring in around £30,000 a year to support the Mid Yorkshire Burns Club.

Mrs Foster said: “The club is run on a charitable basis.

“We have just taken ten families away to Sherwood Forest.

“It gives children the opportunity to meet other kids and share their experiences. Many children have never met another child with a burns injury.

“They can support each other and talk about how they’ve managed at school. The children have a lot of fun.

“We can find out if there are any restrictions on their physical movement.”

The burns club also runs a “buddy” scheme which pairs struggling youngsters with another child who has experienced burns to act as a mentor.

In schools, Mrs Foster also works with youngsters’ friends to help them understand classmates’ injuries which can change their physical appearance. She said: “We talk about differences and how it isn’t how they look, it’s what’s inside that makes friends special to you.

“It’s about their psychological needs as well.

“Part of my role is going into schools to help them be reintegrated. If children are struggling I can go out and help make their home environment more relaxing.”