Bluebell Wood trustee ‘inspired and humbled’ by families who visit the hospice

29th September 2021

When Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice approached Dr Rum Thomas to join its board of trustees, she didn’t hesitate for a second.

When Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice approached Dr Rum Thomas to join its board of trustees, she didn’t hesitate for a second.

A Consultant in Paediatric Intensive Care at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Dr Thomas has had roles in education and leadership in her varied career. As someone who takes great pride and pleasure in her work, Dr Thomas is always happy to lend her expertise when there’s a chance to make a difference.

In her work at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Dr Thomas has got to know and been inspired by many families who visit Bluebell Wood for respite care, as well as referring families who are preparing to say goodbye to a child.

“I feel really humbled by the amount of sacrifice you see from these families, and not just that but the cheerful sacrifice,” she said.

“You’re often sitting by the bedside and chatting and it’s very obvious that they are completely exhausted by the demands of caring for a child with complex needs.

“They are so dedicated, often sitting at the child’s bedside around the clock to make sure the child gets what they want and need. It’s so inspirational to see that. You just think wow – I don’t know how they can do that and be cheerful at the same time.”

Dr Thomas is driven by the desire to help children and families live as fulfilling a life as possible.

“When I was approached by Bluebell Wood to become a trustee, my instant reaction was that it would be something very good and worthwhile to do,” she said.

“One of the things I’ve realised over the years is that being a clinician at the bedside, you can make a difference to a child, the family and the staff you’re working with on that particular day. But in a leadership position, such as leading a team or being on a Board, you can make a difference by influencing and improving systems for the whole group of children, families and staff.

“I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen at Bluebell Wood so far, but as the needs of children evolve and the understanding, technology and systems improve, we can always push for more.

“The question we need to continually ask ourselves is – what more can we do to help these children, young people, and their families live fulfilling, happy lives?”

Growing up on campus at a Mission Hospital near Agra in India where both her parents were medics, Dr Thomas’ vocation was clear from a very young age.

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t going to do medicine,” she said.

“I was always very interested in the paediatric side. What I really like about it is the huge preventative and public health aspect to it. The fact that you can make such a big difference with relatively minor interventions. Children are the future in that sense, and if you can help in some small way then you can set them up for life.

“A child dies every three seconds because of poverty, because they don’t have fresh drinking water. It’s quite powerful when you think of it in that way.”
Despite her early interest in paediatrics, Dr Thomas ended up working in intensive care in various hospitals, work that included a stint at a big Delhi hospital during a devastating Dengue Fever epidemic in the 1990s. Eventually deciding she wanted to see more of world, she moved to the UK to live and work in 2001, with a view to returning to north India a few years later.

“I had an idea that I’d live and work in the UK and travel around Europe,” said Rum.

“But I found that I couldn’t just move countries to work and travel aimlessly - I had to work towards something.”

She joined the UK postgraduate training programme in Paediatrics and Child Health, undertaking placements at hospitals throughout the country. The experience she gained, in community paediatrics in particular, cemented her desire to work closely with children and families.

After joining the team at Sheffield Children’s Hospital in 2009, where’s she’s remained ever since, one particular moment proved a real turning point in her perspective.

“I went to Bluebell Wood for the first time after we’d referred a child there who’d sadly passed away, and I had to go and physically see them to complete the paperwork,” she said.

“I spent some time with the family as it seemed so impersonal to just go in and fill out the paperwork. The mother had a laptop and showed me hundreds of photographs of this little girl in the garden and with her family. I just thought, what a beautiful, fulfilling life this child had.

“I realised then that throughout my career I’d seen children at their very worst condition in Intensive Care, when they were really unwell. But even though this little girl had faced many challenges, she was just so happy.”

Dr Rum Thomas joined Bluebell Wood’s board of trustees in the height of the pandemic and joins an incredibly talented team who bring a wealth of experience and expertise from their various professional backgrounds.

To find out more about Bluebell Wood’s trustees, go to https://www.bluebellwood.org/our-trustees

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