The beautiful Amber was born with a lack of oxygen to the brain called H.I.E. She was still born and resuscitated and then had many complications that kept her in hospital for the first 6 weeks of her little life. When she finally went home after those first few worrying weeks, her parents had not been given any diagnosis.
It wasn’t until many appointments, medical interventions and specialist consultant assessments later that at 8 years old Amber has a list of diagnosed conditions. She is non-verbal, non-mobile, has cerebal palsy, hearing loss, epilepsy, global development delay and cortical visual impairment, a lot complications for such a sweet young girl.
We first were introduced to Amber when she was 4 years old, in Addenbrookes hospital, when she was having a hip operation. Mum had just given birth to a second child Erin, and the family were not in a good place. The stress and pressure is immense for families in these extremely difficult situations. We walked in to quite a sad and fearful room and we left about an hour later with a little girl bursting with laughter ( the first time she had ever laughed in hospital ) and a family that had been able to enjoy some moments of respite from the fear and apprehension of the situation. They have said that it was like a magical bubble that they entered, away from the torment and worry of the moment. We have often worked with Amber at school and in hospital and are privileged that her family are happy to share such a personal experience and so eloquently explain what we bring to them.
Please see a couple of clips of Amber and her family. One where Amber is ‘hysterical‘ with laughter, and one where her parents articulate what we mean to them.
Bobby’s story begins with a situation that no parent ever wants to face, their little boy Bobby being knocked over in a terrible accident when a car drove into his home.
The Laughter Specialists first met Bobby at Addenbrookes Children¹s Hospital just after he had come off of his life support but was still in intensive care. There lay this little boy, wrapped completely in bandages but what struck us was this beautiful big smile from Bobby as we were introduced.
We are a regular fixture at Addenbrookes hospital and spent many visits with Bobby. Whether it was another treatment or an operation he showed amazing bravery and was always keen and up for some entertainment and positive connection with us.
Because of his brain injury, Bobby was restricted in being able to express himself and his physical capabilities were reduced but he was adamant that he would hold a magic wand with a shaky arm and take part in the magic and comedy.
His humour was released immediately and he loved slapstick and the more cheeky and playful we were the more he laughed.
The sillier and the more animated we were, the better Bobby seemed to be. He was encouraged by us to us to take on different characters as he loved being in control, which was very important when so much of his life was unpredictable and unknown.
Whilst he was often in pain, Bobby managed to turn his anger and frustration in to humour, which was not only clever but a huge benefit for him. Again another example of the bespoke and unique benefit laughter can bring to individuals.
We continue to support Bobby today and are proud to be part of his home therapy programme as well as still supporting him at hospital visits.
Ollie was born prematurely at 35 weeks and was quickly diagnosed as having cerebral palsy,
a non-progressive brain injury which primarily affects the way the brain relays messages to your body. In Ollie’s case he is a Spastic Quadriplegic. This means his muscles are very stiff and tight and his whole body is affected. Ollie cannot walk and uses a power wheelchair to get around. Ollie also has limited speech and can say only a few clear words, however he can understand you. Ollie also has epilepsy and is partially sighted.
Even though he has a long list of things he has to deal with every day Ollie loves to laugh & have fun. This makes his time with The Laughter Specialists even more important. His family believe his sessions with us whether at school, in hospital or more recently during Covid 19 at his home, are an essential service supporting Ollie’s overall well-being. Our interactions with him are great fun and he uses these opportunities to really express himself and he loves the fun and laughter.
Sky has a range of medical conditions that limits her access to a typical little life for a 5 year old. The Laughter Specialists have been privileged to be working with Sky over the last 4 years. We first met her at a special needs nursery, Grove Cottage. Bishop Stortford and more recently at Harlow Fields School, Harlow. We have also visited her and worked with her in hospital too.
Whilst Sky has various complications and has been in hospital many times, she is a real character and nothing stops her having fun when she’s feeling stronger and in better physical health.
She is physically supported and shows her emotions through her body language and making sounds as she is non verbal. There has been some very worrying times for her family but whenever possible Sky always has the biggest smile and her whole face lights up, you can see in the picture, especially when we are with her.
Our work takes us through some incredible journeys with children and their families, Sky is one of those, a special little girl who has been through so much but can always find a smile when we are with her.
Tapping in to Sky’s day Is a wonderful experience as she clearly has a incredible imagination and sense of humour and loves doing role play with us.
Recently even lying on her hospital bed after an operation she wanted to play shops with us. This brought a smile to everyone around including the nursing staff. Her enthusiasm had us all laughing uncontrollably.
This story shows the power of laughter and how it raised the spirits all around her. Even when Sky was really physically uncomfortable, using humour and fun we distracted her and she found that giggle for all of us to share.
(Aka Ted the great & the brave)
Ted entered the world in October 2002 with a real tough start and facing so many challenges. His diagnosis and conditions included Leopard syndrome, dystonic Cerebal Palsy P, congenital heart disease, vision problems, epilepsy, feeding issues…not an easy welcome into the world. Through the years he has had various surgeries to help the tone in muscle groups in his legs, many rounds of toxin injections to reduce spasms and pain, gastrostomy feeding tube fitted to aid weight gain. During this time he attended an incredible inclusive mainstream school, Bentfield primary in Stansted.
Ted overcame every challenge he faced and bounced back time after time until he reached his teens, where his health slowly deteriorated, starting with a number of chest infections and pneumonia’s. Each time took longer to recover and he never fully returned to the base line he was originally at. Being too high risk for major spinal surgery due to his cardiac issues, meant that as he grew the pressure from this severe double curve almost halved his lung capacity, and has put enormous pressure on his gastric tract.
At the end of 2018 after over 2 years of gut dismotility/gastropariesis Ted had reached a point of having very poor quality of life. He was admitted into Addenbrooke’s with Gastro intestinal failure and started his journey on Total Parenteral Nutrition. It was during this long stay of over 4 months he got to know the laughter specialists. Their weekly visits were like rays of sunshine for him and a huge benefit in keeping him mentally strong and still enjoying his life. Ted is still under the hospital and with the Covid 19 pandemic he was destined to even more isolation and difficulties. In jumped the Laughter Specialists again, offering bespoke films and some social distanced outreach visits. This has meant that Ted has been fully supported during this time.