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WE ALL know the new Alder Hey is fantastic - but the pioneering research taking place within its wonderful walls is simply out of this world.

The ECHO was invited to meet patients, parents, clinicians and medical researchers as the hospital continues its PS6m fundraising drive for the second phase of Alder Hey's "Institute in the Park".

The first phase - a dedicated research, innovation and education centre - opened earlier this year and the appeal will allow Alder Hey to extend the current building and develop even better treatments for children and young people by almost doubling the space available to undertake world-class research and innovation.

Abigail's story Abigail Alker, eight, from West Derby, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma - a cancer of specialised nerve cells - two years ago, and has been through a lengthy programme of treatment, including chemotherapy, surgery, stem cell treatment and radiotherapy.

Abigail and her family then agreed for her to take part in a research study - the first in the UK - to reduce the chance of the cancer returning. She underwent immunotherapy from May last year, which included five cycles of treatment each lasting 35 days.

Abigail remains in remission and mum Michelle says: "We couldn't have asked for more - it got her better, didn't it? We are so lucky to have Alder Hey on our doorstep, because we have met so many people who travel long distances to come here with their children."

Some people under the that getting building finished. building is start ...

Clare White, Alder Hey " Michelle and husband Dave have nothing but praise for Alder Hey - their second home for the last two years - and singled out their consultant oncologist, Dr James Hayden, with Dave saying: "We can't thank him enough for his emotional support and communication skills."

Abigail adds: "He's got a very soothing voice. I would like him to record himself reading a book, so I can hear him tell me stories!" Pioneering medical work linked to a brilliant bedside manner - a winning combination.

How 'Virtual Visiting' could revolutionise parents' lives Clare Cassidy, originally from Walton, and now living in Wigan, and her threeyear-old daughter, Lydia, have been at the forefront of the neonatal virtual visiting system being developed by Alder Hey.

people might be impression the new means we are But the is just the Lydia was born with gastroschisis - her intestines were outside her body.

chief executive of Children's Charity Former Liverpool star Jamie Carragher, an Alder Hey Children's Charity patron, was born with the same condition and spent the first six weeks of his life in Alder Hey. His 23 Foundation is a big supporter of Alder Hey, and has provided funding for the neonatal "virtual visiting" project. Recalling how the idea was born, IT manager Clare says: "Lydia had multiple operations and spent the first nine months of her life here.

"But, in the old hospital, there was no technology in the wards and I had a lot of ideas which I was asked to put forward."

The hospital was inspired to develop a system which allows parents to make virtual visits, by using a tablet linked to the neonatal unit - similar to a Skype system - meaning new parents can spend as much time with their baby as possible, even if mum can't be with her child due to surgery, geographical reasons or because she also has to look after her other children.

It is currently being trialled by Alder Hey with Liverpool Women's Hospital.

Clare adds: "It would have improved my situation and given me peace of mind. I was pacing the floor at night, getting paranoid and ringing the nurses all the time - my other children, Darcey and Amber, were five and two at the time and I couldn't leave them. I knew Lydia was in good hands, but I would have felt so much better if I could have just seen her sleeping."

Creating the future - in Alder Hey's Innovation Hub Iain Hennessey, director of innovation and a paediatric surgeon at Alder Hey, says: "It's a bit embarrassing, I think, how bad technology is in the health service. I have better technology to manage my music collection than my patients have. The idea behind this place is that we can work with big and small companies and engineers and scientists."

In the Hub's Virtual Engineering Centre, Iain puts on virtual reality goggles to demonstrate how surgeons can plan their surgery by using technology to go inside hearts and other organs on screen.

Iain adds: "The technology is already out there and it can only make us better. We just need to grasp it and harness it."

Liverpool company 3-D LifePrints is working alongside Alder Hey staff in the Hub, and company production manager Michael Richard says: "We take MRI and CT scans and render them into 3-D models."

The 3-D printing produces materials which mimic parts of the body, with the aim of allowing surgeons to prepare for surgery and improve patient outcomes.

Alder Hey - why Liverpool families should never take it for granted Families visit Alder Hey from far afield - including the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight - and every time you meet patients and parents from outside our city it makes you appreciate what we have here so much more.

Nine-year-old Thomas Robinson, from Crewe, has spent most of his life in Alder Hey, having been diagosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy - a progressive muscle wasting condition - when he was six months old. His mum Karen says: "Three years ago, he started on a steroids trial, which was great because it really helped his condition. He's now starting a new trial, taking medicine which will coat his muscles, so they hopefully won't deteriorate."

Although they don't live in Merseyside, Karen says: "We are so lucky to be just an hour away."

It's getting better all the time Dr Charlie Orton, the research business unit manager, says: "In the last 10 years, Alder Hey has grown enormously in terms of the amount, and type, of research it conducts and there has been a big increase in the number of children taking part in clinical research studies.

"The type of research conducted here is pretty much anything and everything you can think of."

And Amanda Rees, clinical research facility operational manager, says: "What is really special is to have this purpose-built area in the heart of the hospital which allows children to come in for the research studies. Children love coming here because it is quiet and calm, away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital. And we don't have visiting hours - families can be here all the time, and stay overnight in purpose-built cubicles."

The chief executive of Alder Hey Children's Charity, Clare White, says: "Some people might be under the impression that getting the new building means we are finished. But the building is just the start - it provides a platform to go on and do great things.

"The next step for health care is around innovation - using technology in different contexts to make life better and easier for our patients and their families. I'm excited about the research that is being carried out at Alder Hey, and I don't think people realise just how much great research work is being done here.

"We should be really proud of what we have got at Alder Hey."

A remarkable new hospital has been created, while the current appeal's legacy will be seen in the next generation of treatments and medicines for our sick children.

Some people might be under the impression that getting the new building means we are finished. But the building is just the start ... Clare White, chief executive of Alder Hey Children's Charity


Oncology patient Abigail Alker, aged eight, from West Derby, with her parents, Michelle and Dave

Iain Hennessey in his virtual reality goggles


Thomas Robinson, 9, from Crewe, with his mum, Karen

Clare Cassidy with three-year-old daughter, Lydia

Clinical research facility operational manager for Alder Hey, Amanda Rees, left, and research business unit manager Charlie Orton

Iain Hennessey, paediatric surgeon and director of innovation

Chief executive of Alder Hey Children's Charity, Clare White

Production manager of 3-D Life prints, Michael Richard
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 5, 2016
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