Young patients at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) were treated to some furry, four-legged festivities when ITV presenter Paul O’Grady paid a Christmas visit with some of his friends from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home earlier this month.
Paul, an Ambassador for the Home, joined staff from the world-famous animal charity as they introduced the children to some of Battersea’s finest waggy-tailed residents who are hoping to find a home in time for Christmas.
It was smiles all round for the young patients, particularly for those missing the companionship of their own pets. One of the dogs they enjoyed a Christmas cuddle with was Wilma, a four-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, who will appear in ITV’s Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs at Christmas on Christmas Day.
Wilma arrived at Battersea’s London centre in September. Found in a field with two puppies, she was trembling, underweight, and suffering from a nasty skin condition that had left her skin red raw. Staff at the charity will never know what happened to Wilma, and how she had come to be dumped with two puppies, but the little Terrier had clearly been through a lot, and would crawl around on her belly in a submissive state.
After months of treatment and loving care at Battersea, Wilma is a different dog, happy, healthy and now ready to find a new home. She joined Sapphire, a five-month-old Akita puppy, Lola, an 11-year-old Bull Mastiff, Anya a 12-year-old Mongrel, and Jet an eight-month-old Spaniel for the trip out to GOSH.
Paul O’Grady says: “It was wonderful to see the children’s eyes light up when we arrived with the Battersea dogs. I know how much they will be missing their own pets. Some of the children had drawn pictures of their favourite dogs, and they were absolutely made up to have a furry friend sit by their side. The dogs loved the attention, and it was such an honour to meet with the children, their families and the hospital staff, some of who will be working over Christmas.”
One of the patients Paul met with was Thomas Fox, aged 11, who was undergoing treatment for leukaemia. Thomas’s dad Roger said:
“Thomas has been a GOSH patient since he was diagnosed with leukaemia this year. He is currently undergoing preparation for a bone marrow transplant just before Christmas. We’re so grateful to the hospital for everything they do, and the love and care given by their staff. It was an absolute pleasure to be involved with this festive visit, especially as this is one of Thomas’s favourite programmes! It was a real boost for all of us and Thomas so enjoyed meeting Paul and having a Christmas cuddle with the dogs.”
In the run-up to Christmas, as always, it’s important for the hospital to feel like a home from home for seriously ill children who are being treated there, and the family members who support them. Patient parties, decorating wards, putting out stockings for patients and putting on a Christmas lunch are just a few of the ways staff at GOSH celebrate Christmas with the patients in their care
Nicola Grinstead, Deputy Chief Executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital said of the visit:
“Everyone at Great Ormond Street Hospital tries to make Christmas as special as possible for families in our care and so we were thrilled to be involved with this year’s Paul O’Grady For the Love of Dogs at Christmas. The festive visit was such a lovely and uplifting experience – both for our GOSH patients who are battling complex illnesses and for our fantastic staff who are working at the hospital over Christmas time.”
The visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital will be shown in the one-hour Christmas special of Paul O’Grady For the Love of Dogs, on ITV at 7.00pm on Christmas Day.