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When Lucy joined Harvey's Gang at Watford General Hospital

Posted: 25 April 2018
Valerie Hill, Communications Apprentice

Picture of Lucy Mitchell and her family, with Trust staff in a laboratory

Blood tests are a frequent occurrence for four-year-old Lucy Mitchell, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2016. Lucy and her family have often wondered where her blood samples go and how the labs process the results. That's why Watford General Hospital welcomed Harvey's Gang to Safari ward this week to help Lucy understand what happens after she has given her blood.

Harvey's Gang is a charity that demystifies the process of where blood samples are analysed by providing children and their families with a tour of the pathology labs. This can be an illuminating experience for everyone and helps children better understand the process their bloods go through.

Lucy is the first child to take a tour of Watford General's labs with Harvey's Gang. Lucy became a trainee biomedical scientist for the day and, along with her brother Charlie, aged eight, was given her very own lab coat. Lucy was also given her own ID pass to open the special doors to the labs.

Lucy and Charlie saw the machines that test Lucy's bloods and met the specialist scientists who run the labs. They also looked through microscopes at blood cells, saw where blood was stored and followed the journey of Lucy's blood through the lab. They were able to process her blood onto the computer system and watch it being tested.

Susannah Mitchell, Lucy's mother, said: "Lucy has a blood sample every week, so it's great knowing where it goes. She's had blood transfusions before, so just knowing where it comes from is really interesting." Susannah added that the tour was very "special".

Ben Sheath is a specialist transfusion practitioner who invited Harvey's Gang into Watford General. He said: "Families can spend a lot of time waiting for blood results and this helps them to understand what happens in the labs. The initiative is great for lab staff too as it helps them see past the sample in their hand to the patient at the other end. It also opens up the labs to the rest of the hospital by improving links with the wards."

After her tour, Lucy said that the best thing about it was "looking down the microscope and using the ID badge!"

Harvey's Gang was launched in 2014 in memory of eight-year-old Harvey Buster Baldwin who visited the pathology labs at Worthing Hospital where he was treated for leukaemia. Watford General is the 37th hospital to welcome Harvey's Gang. The charity is hoping to reach up to 70 hospitals this year to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

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  1. For more information, please contact Name, title in the Trust’s communications department on telephone: 01923 436 281 or email: info@whht.nhs.uk. Out of hours, please call 07900 228 031.
  2. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is a large acute trust serving people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three sites at Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals and sees about 600,000 patients a year. We are one of the largest employers locally, with around 4,500 staff and volunteers.