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RespiratoryDec 19, 2023

Physio team 'moves like Beyonce' in memorable tribute to teenage patient with Down syndrome

Members of a paediatric physiotherapy team based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge came up with a moving tribute as way of celebrating the progress of a young patient who had spent several months under their care.

After a couple of practice sessions, the team fulfilled a promise to dance along to Beyonce’s song ‘Single Ladies’ after teenager Evie Evans took her first steps in her tailor-made rehab programme. That promise had been made by physio Jonny Littlewood as a motivational gambit.

Evie, 13, has Down syndrome and was admitted to hospital in July with a respiratory infection and worryingly low oxygen levels. She was placed on a ventilator and doctors even discussed instituting a ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) order with her parents.

However, after six weeks in intensive care, Evie’s road to recovery began and physio staff developed a rehab programme based on music and movement after learning that Evie loved music, as well as sports such as rugby and boxing.

Photo Credit: Addenbrooke's Hospital
Physio Jonny Littlewood (pictured near the camera) steps out with the team

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Physio staff 'on a high'

Helen Starace is the lead paediatric physiotherapist at Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) NHS Foundation Trust. She said the team started to realise they would have to fulfil Jonny’s promise after Evie took her first steps using parallel bars in mid-October and the next stage was to walk with a frame.

‘In preparation for the upcoming dance routine, the team watched a video to learn Beyonce’s moves and we rehearsed together twice. I might have practised at home a little too! When Evie walked with the frame for the first time, it was an incredible moment in her recovery.

'The next day she came to the gym as normal with her dad. She was given a cheerleader pompom, the music started and we just went for it. It’s the first time we’ve ever done anything like this and we all secretly enjoyed it! Evie had worked so hard, we were determined to do it. We were on such a high afterwards.’

Sara Evans, Evie’s mother, said her daughter was delighted by the performance. ‘The CUH physio team are fantastic. They have always been so kind and empathetic in their care. Every time they worked with Evie they were really tuned into her and were instrumental in her recovery. She worked harder for them.’

New regional paediatric unit on the cards

The trust is working with the University of Cambridge and the mental health trust, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, to build a brand-new specialist children’s hospital for the East of England – the only region in the UK without one.

Staff at the future Cambridge Children’s Hospital, including the specialist physio teams, will be dual trained in delivering both physical and mental healthcare, giving them the skills and support they need to treat everything a child may be going through - whether that's visible or not - adopting a 'whole child' approach to caring.

The planned hospital will have two rehabilitation gyms, occupational therapy, music therapy and therapeutic playrooms, as well as terraces, courtyard gardens and a garden, which provide outdoor spaces with a variety of textures, surfaces, sights and sounds that can be incorporated in and enhance therapeutic activities. The current spaces being used by the physio team at CUH were designed for adults.

It’s the first time we’ve ever done anything like this and we all secretly enjoyed it! Evie had worked so hard, we were determined to do it. We were on such a high afterwards [Helen Starace]

Cambridge Children’s Hospital, which had an outline business case approved in principle in October, will have dedicated therapy spaces for children and young people like Evie, making it easier to provide specific tailored therapy in calm, age-appropriate environments. The hospital will be a UK first to integrate mental and physical healthcare alongside research.

Author: I A McMillan
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