Laughter the best medicine for Alastair

HOSPITALS can be very daunting, especially for sick children. 

In March, Alastair Urquhart, then seven years old, complained of abdominal pain and was taken to his doctor.

He was then sent to Shoalhaven Hospital, where an ultrasound revealed a mass the size of a cricket ball. He was then transferred to the Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick for surgery. 

What was first thought to a simple appendectomy became a complex operation, requiring the wall that had grown around the appendix and attached itself to his kidney to be removed.

Alastair came home with 50 stitches and memories of an experience that would be quite daunting for an adult, let alone a child.   

“He had a lot of poking and prodding, which was quite overwhelming,” said his mother Angela Urquhart. 

“Then in May he landed in casualty, with a suspected broken jaw, which luckily it wasn’t. It was a lot to process. We thought a return visit to the hospital that involved a follow-up positive experience would be good for him.”

So Alastair went back to hospital, not to be prodded and poked as a patient, but to meet childcare trained Marilyn Bevan-Williams, known by the children as Mazza the clown.

Mazza, a self-funded volunteer who attends the children’s ward twice a week, delights the children with her fun and games. 

“A happy child gets better quicker,” she said.

The staff call it distraction therapy. It is used to divert the attention of little ones and make them giggle and laugh. 

“Humour and laughter is the best medicine,” Mazza said.

“Having the place in high spirits makes it much easier for the kids to relax and be calm,” said nursing manager Colleen Foy.

“It does make a huge difference [having an entertainer], not just for kids but staff as well; it also complements the nursing staff and the medical staff,” Mrs Foy said.

Alastair has come to terms with his hospital ordeal, having seen a more fun side of the children’s ward. 

He has made a full recovery and is back to his healthy, sporty self.

“He is as fit as a fiddle,” Mrs Urquhart said.

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