Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pets now allowed to visit patients in Starship

A terminally ill patient whose pets were smuggled into Starship Children's Hospital is the inspiration behind the hospital setting up a special area where furry animals can visit long-term or critically ill children.

Ella's Cuddle Corner - a purpose-built, easily sterilised area in the atrium of the national children's hospital in Auckland - is named after Ella Mackie.

Seven years ago Ella, aged five, was missing her pets so badly when in Starship being treated for a brain tumour that they were smuggled into the hospital for secret cuddles.

Ella passed away in 2003, but her mum Jane Thompson made it her goal to set up a place in Starship where patients could see their pets. "Ella showed us that an area like this was really needed for sick children who have a special bond with their pets," she said.

The project was funded by donations to the Starship Foundation.

"It was a hugely emotional project and definitely one of our most unique fundraising projects," says Starship Foundation chief executive Andrew Young.

"The thought of creating a few moments of happiness for these children with their pets really appealed to our supporters."

Ella's Cuddle Corner was opened yesterday by another animal-loving patient, Claudia Chaney, who is suffering severe graft-versus-host disease which she developed following a bone marrow transplant for leukaemia five years ago.

Claudia was able to have a cuddle with her cat Crystal.

"All Claudia wanted to do during a recent stay in Starship was go home and see her cat," says Claudia's mother Lisa Petersen.

"To be able to do that in the hospital takes away some of the fear and makes it less clinical for children."


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