Young transfusion patient goes behind scenes at Leeds hospital lab

William Rhodes.
William Rhodes.
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A young patient has become one of the first in the country to take part in a new scheme giving children the chance to go behind the scenes in hospital laboratories to follow their own blood treatment.

William Rhodes, nine, had been staying in hospital in Leeds for treatment for his rare bone marrow failure disorder, Diamond Blackfan Anaemia.

The condition means William cannot make enough red blood cells in his body.

It requires transfusions in hospitals, which parents like William’s say can be a confusing process for a child.

To help William understand more about his treatment, the youngster was given the rare chance to don a lab coat and take his own blood sample to the St James’ Hospital haematology department – and even choose the blood he would then receive for his own transfusion.

William became the first patient in Yorkshire to take part in the Harvey’s Gang scheme, which launched in 2014.

Caroline Rhodes, William’s mum, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The visit to the blood labs really made a difference to William’s understanding of the whole process, he now knows where his bag of blood comes from and he knows where all his blood results come from and how it happens.

“This all helps him to understand his illness and the meaning of certain words that may seem pretty straight forward to us.

“This means a lot to us as parents as William sometimes struggles to understand things when explained verbally and it always helps him to see things visually.”

Flanked by Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust haematology scientists, William was able to watch his own sample being processed at the St James’ Hospital lab, and then see his blood cells under the microscope.

He also visited the hospital’s transfusion lab, where William could see the laboratory records for every transfusion he had received since he was just five-months-old.

The nine-year-old also worked with the scientists to understand which blood 
types were suitable for him, before eventually selecting his own.

Jennifer Rock, transfusion practitioner at the NHS trust in Leeds, said that while the scheme was benefiting patients, staff at the hospital also enjoyed taking part.

William’s visit came just weeks after the YEP launched our We Love Our NHS campaign, which aims to give praise to the region’s hardworking – and often unseen – NHS staff.

“Harvey’s Gang is a fantastic initiative and we’re proud to be a part of it here in Leeds,” Ms Rock said.

“The visits mean so much to the children and to their parents, it really gives them 
a greater understanding of their hospital treatment and what happens behind the scenes.

“It also means a great deal to staff who really enjoy getting to know the patients and their families.”

The trust in Leeds now plans to roll out the Harvey’s Gang programme in full, 
and another patient will go behind the scenes later this month.

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