WORK­ING LIFE

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Health -

Michelle Hart­nett, se­nior play ther­a­pist, Laura Lynn Chil­dren’s Hospice

8.30am It’s a short com­mute from my home in Car­rick­mines to the hospice in Leop­ard­stown. I start the day by ad­dress­ing email queries from fam­i­lies or staff, re­lated to chil­dren I see for play ther­apy or ex­ter­nal in­for­ma­tion re­quests in re­la­tion to our fam­ily sup­port pro­grammes. At Laura Lynn we pro­vide care to chil­dren with life-lim­it­ing con­di­tions and their fam­i­lies, fo­cussing on mak­ing sure the chil­dren in our care live as full a life as pos­si­ble.

9am Af­ter a quick break­fast, the mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary team sits down to dis­cuss in­di­vid­ual sup­ports for chil­dren and fam­i­lies. Chil­dren visit us for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, from symp­tom man­age­ment and short breaks, to end-of-life sup­port. We sup­port 140 chil­dren who at­tend ser­vices from around the coun­try, from new-borns to the age of 18.

11am As a play ther­a­pist, I help de­vise recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties that ap­peal to chil­dren who stay with us. To­day I’ve organised a trea­sure hunt for a child who loves se­cret agents and whose favourite hero is Spi­der­man. The child is the hero of this drama and along the way he has to deal with var­i­ous ‘bad­dies’ who are try­ing to take over the hospice. He saves the day! Ac­tiv­i­ties such as these are cen­tral to our fo­cus of ‘putting life into a child’s day, not days into a child’s life’.

1pm I eat lunch in our can­teen. I of­ten bump into fam­i­lies and sib­lings, where I can have a laugh and a gig­gle with the sib­lings of vis­it­ing chil­dren.

2pm The af­ter­noon is given over to 45-minute ses­sions with clients. Pri­mar­ily the work is with sib­lings of chil­dren in our care who are deal­ing with is­sues like anx­i­ety and an­tic­i­pa­tory grief — a grief re­ac­tion that oc­curs be­fore an im­pend­ing loss. I hold a mas­ters in be­reave­ment and loss, a course run by the Irish Hospice Foun­da­tion in part­ner­ship with the RCSI, which has given me an in-depth un­der­stand­ing of a child’s needs at vul­ner­a­ble times in their lives — pre and post be­reave­ment — and this ben­e­fits my ap­proach when de­vel­op­ing play ther­apy ses­sions for each child.

5pm I head home to meet my hus­band James where we pick up our dog, a mal-shi named Non­sense and bring him for a walk in Dún Laoghaire. I en­joy cre­ative arts, par­tic­u­larly illustration and I try to in­cor­po­rate these ac­tiv­i­ties into my evenings.

“I en­joy cre­ative arts, par­tic­u­larly illustration”

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