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Filled with love – hospital staff thank everyone who has supported the Highland children's ward at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness this year


By Louise Glen

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Staff at the Highland Children's Unit at Raigmore Hospital are delighted by generous donations. Front to back: Cyndelle Belshaw, Fiona Christie, Rebecca Abrahams and Peter Nowikowski. Picture: Gary Anthony
Staff at the Highland Children's Unit at Raigmore Hospital are delighted by generous donations. Front to back: Cyndelle Belshaw, Fiona Christie, Rebecca Abrahams and Peter Nowikowski. Picture: Gary Anthony

Youngsters unlucky enough to be spending Christmas in hospital will still enjoy some festive cheer thanks to generous well-wishers.

Although the Highland Children’s Unit has been unable to welcome festive visitors bearing gifts due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has still received donations of toys and other items.

A certified “community hero” who shone a bright light for youngsters during the dark days of lockdown has now done his bit to put a smile on the faces of patients at the Highland Children’s Unit at Raigmore Hospital.

Street sweeper Martin MacDougall – who was named an Inverness City Centre Hero in awards organised by Highland Council, Inverness Common Good Fund, Inverness BID and HN publisher Highland News & Media last Friday – has donated a number of “cuddle bags” to cheer up young patients over Christmas.

He did the same out of his own pocket for children in lockdown all across Inverness during the pandemic.

Inspired and helped by Tain tot Maisie Star Towler (3), who recently had a stay in hospital herself, Mr MacDougall handed over 23 bags in total.

The 55-year-old, from Merkinch, who was also named bus company Stagecoach’s national community hero last month, said the donation was weeks of hard work in the making.

Martin MacDougall and Maisie Star Torley with donations for Stephanie MacKenzie at the Highland Children's Ward. Picture: Callum Mackay
Martin MacDougall and Maisie Star Torley with donations for Stephanie MacKenzie at the Highland Children's Ward. Picture: Callum Mackay

“We made up 10 for boys and 10 for girls, plus three for newborns,” he said.

“We made up each one of them with love for children in the hospital over Christmas.

“We came up with the idea after Maisie was in Raigmore’s children’s ward a few months ago and there was nothing for her to do.

“She said that she and the other kids looked sad in hospital so we came up with the cuddle bags idea.

“In each bag is a teddy bear to make the children smile and they are filled with little toys for something to play with while in hospital.”

Maisie’s mum, Elaine Milka, said: “The idea of cuddle bags came about when Maisie was in hospital. The staff were fantastic but, as any sick child would be, she was scared.

Martin MacDougall and Maisie Star Torley with donations for Stephanie MacKenzie at the Highland Children's Ward. Picture: Callum Mackay
Martin MacDougall and Maisie Star Torley with donations for Stephanie MacKenzie at the Highland Children's Ward. Picture: Callum Mackay

“A teddy to cuddle and make you feel safe, and little toys that keep their wee heads from thinking of what is going on around them, are ideal.”

The children’s unit has thanked everyone who has donated toys and other items during a very challenging year.

Fiona McGlynn, senior charge nurse, said: “We are always overwhelmed by how kind the local population are to us and the children we care for and this year, despite the many challenges that we have all faced, is proving to be no different.

“We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has donated this year, which has been particularly challenging for us as we adapt the environment, our practice and policies to the guidance.

“We have been unable to use bubble therapy, share or recycle toys due to the risk of Covid-19, yet the children have still needed to be entertained and distracted for procedures.

“We have received toys, new pyjamas, scrubs and hair coverings for the staff and, after a Facebook appeal, baby monitors – and to you all, we say ‘thank you’.

“The thoughtfulness, generosity and continued kindness shown to the children is very much appreciated and helps us ensure that if children have to be in hospital over Christmas that we can make it as special as we can for them.”

If anyone wants to donate items to the unit, they must be new to comply with Covid hygiene requirements.

They will either be given to children to take home, or used as Christmas presents for those who are in hospital on the day.

Anyone giving donations should call the unit on extension 4335 in advance to arrange a time to attend and be met by a member of staff at the entrance.


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