Tom’s Trust Ambassador Group 2021 at the Great North Children’s Hospital
This year, we started a virtual Tom’s Trust Ambassador Group at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne. Led by Tom’s Trust Lead Ambassador, Emma Smith, 15, and supported by Dr Sarah Verity, Paediatric Neuropsychologist, and Uschi Hiermeier, Assistant Psychologist, the group aims to provide a confidential, safe space for children with brain tumour to share experiences, helpful tips and their favourite emojis.
After a first, successful trial earlier on this year, the group meet for the second time in June with the theme: “Returning to School after my Diagnosis / Treatment”. The group reflected on what it was like going back to school after diagnosis/ treatment, shared experiences on any impact this might have had on friendship groups, social life and school work, and tips on what worked well and what did not. One top tip from Emma, for example, was to “tell people about your diagnosis ASAP, if you feel comfortable to do so, is a good thing because there’s no pressure later on.”
The first group had eight children and the second group three children in attendance (with occasional guest visits in form of pet dogs, birds or cats). The group is structured around a theme, which is carefully selected by Emma with the help of Dr Verity, and then formulated into a loose script to scaffold the group and discussion. The feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive and it was lovely to see how some of the group members have opened up and contributed
Due to the restrictions of the pandemic, the group is held online which makes it accessible for children living far away from Newcastle. Dr Verity said: “Another benefit of meeting online is the chat box function. This is particularly useful for children and young people who might find it easier to communicate by text or to have some time to think about what they want to add. We realised that using MS Teams is the best platform for the group as it has great GIFS of dancing pigeons and cats.”
The groups will continue to run frequently in the future. Uschi, Assistant Psychologist, shared that “it has been a privilege to listen to the experiences of the Tom’s Trust Ambassadors, and to hear their stories and wisdom.” At this moment of time, only Tom’s Trust Ambassadors are invited to join this trial group, but we are hoping to expand and open the invite to all children in the region with brain tumour in the future. The group has shown great potential to not only facilitate a safe space for the children to reflect on their journeys with brain cancer but also build self-esteem and confidence.