A touching tribute paid by staff at Worthing Hospital to a young boy who died from leukaemia is proving inspirational for healthcare providers across the NHS and around the world.
Harvey Buster Baldwin, who passed away on October 6th, has been honoured by giving his name to a new blood grouping machine at the hospital.
That simple act has precipitated a remarkable chain of events that will see life-saving equipment now named after the patients it helps all across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Harvey first became ill with acute myeloid leukaemia aged six and, over the next 20 months, his battle with cancer saw him spend many weeks in hospital.
Much of his care at Worthing Hospital concerned the delivery of life-saving blood products for which he and his family would have to wait while they were processed safely.
The youngster was curious about what happened to his blood once it vanished into the vacuum tube which shoots samples straight to Pathology, so the children’s ward arranged for Harvey to visit the haematology laboratories.
“He really enjoyed his tour,” said his mum, Claire Baldwin. “He brought in his own blood and processed it from start to finish, wearing a little lab coat with a trainee biomedical scientist badge, which he loved.”
His dad, Richard, added: “To give him that insight was absolutely marvellous and it made him, as well as us, understand why it takes so long to process blood.”
A year later the department heard that Harvey had lost his battle with leukaemia following four months in remission thanks to a bone marrow transplant from his brother.
In honour of Harvey they resolved to name their newest machine after him and, on November 6th, Claire and Richard Baldwin were invited to unveil at Worthing Hospital the world’s first ORTHO Vision Analyser blood grouping machine.
The couple were humbled to hear a pledge from the machine’s manufacturers to name the first 100 new machines sold in Europe, Middle East and Africa after patients. Collectively the patients, their stories and the machines would be known as Harvey’s Gang.
Claire said: “We are so honoured and proud that not only will Harvey’s memory be kept alive at Worthing Hospital, but now he is leaving an international legacy.”
Richard added: “To know that some good has come from all this is just brilliant – Harvey’s legacy is leaving positive things behind to enlighten other children and staff.”
More critically ill youngsters are now enjoying trainee scientist tours with their families at Worthing Hospital, wearing special mini lab coats with personalised badges made by hospital staff that explain they are part of ‘Harvey’s Gang’.
The tours also have a dramatic impact on the scientists at work, refocusing their drive and reminding them that every vial of blood they process represents a child or a patient in need of their help.
Similarly, the decision to name a machine after a patient and having a photograph of someone like Harvey proudly displayed also puts the patient right in the heart of essential support services which take place behind the front line.
Chief Biomedical Scientist Malcolm Robinson, who had personally shown Harvey around the laboratories, said: “Harvey got a lot out of his visit, more than we could ever have imagined, which is very humbling.
“But the biomedical scientists too have been re-energised by the experience, as it reconnects them with the patients’ treatment and stories.”
Malcolm added: “I cannot believe the impact we have made and, as Harvey’s story reaches more and more people, we are really proud to be part of something that is having such a positive impact in so many different ways.”
At a time when healthcare is becoming ever more dependent on technology and scientific advances, Harvey’s Gang is an idea that returns patients to the centre of those advancements. The program helps to humanise technological processes no matter how remote they are from the patients they help.
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is embracing the potential of Harvey’s story at its three hospitals in Worthing, Shoreham and Chichester. More patients will be invited to tour non-frontline areas and meet the staff who work there, and more equipment will honour the patients it helps.
The Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant is interested in the example the Trust is setting and, with the support of Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, the idea is already set to spread to non-NHS organisations around the world.
Mukesh Moorjani, the company’s Marketing Director, said: “We have been very touched by Harvey’s story and we consider it a huge honour that the new ORTHO Vision Analyser has been named after him.
“Our goal is to see this fantastic program first developed at Worthing Hospital become established in more than 100 hospitals across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.”
Harvey’s mum, Claire, said: “Knowing that his photograph is on that machine would make him walk so tall, and to hear how his name will live on through Harvey’s Gang would bring his wonderful smile beaming out.”
Richard added: “We are absolutely honoured and overwhelmed, and we cannot thank Worthing Hospital and all involved enough.”
Pictured: Claire and Richard Baldwin with staff at Worthing Hospital.