Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester has donated a specially built Lego radiotherapy machine to The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre to help staff explain
to children how radiotherapy works. AASMA DAY talks to the mum of a Lancashire lad battling a brain tumour about how Lego has helped him in his recovery
When Reece Holt was diagnosed with a brain tumour after suddenly collapsing, he had to undergo emergency brain surgery which left him with weakness on the left hand side of his body.
Reece, 10, who lives in Overton, Morecambe, loves Lego and was upset by being unable to build with it like he used to because of the weakness in his hand.
However, through determination and persistence, Reece managed to improve his co-ordination and aid his recovery.
His mum Rachel O’Neil, who also has son Callum, nine, explains: “Reece was left with weakness post-surgery on his left side, the majority of which he has overcome.
“However, the main area of weakness now lies in his left wrist and hand and he has very little in the way of fine motor skills.
“One of Reece’s biggest loves is Lego so he was extremely upset when he was unable to build and create things.
“But with determination, he kept trying and decided not to use the conventional physio given to him by his occupational therapist and instead sat with his Lego and improved his co-ordination and motor skills to enable him with a little out of the box thinking to improve his skills and get round the residual weakness still there to once again create and build with Lego.”
One of the first things Reece built with Lego after getting his skills back was a Lego radiotherapy machine to help other children about to undergo treatment.
Sarah Stead, paediatric specialist radiographer at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, demonstrates to many children how radiotherapy works by using a small and basic LEGO model of a radiography machine she built herself, which is one of a number of play initiatives used to put young cancer patients at ease.
Fascinated by the technology behind the radiotherapy equipment, Reece, who has been treated with radiotherapy following the brain tumour, took inspiration from Sarah’s model and decided to make his own recreation of the machine.
He then kindly gave this to the radiotherapy department so he could encourage other children to feel inspired and at ease.
Reece says: “I thought if another child was scared of the machine, they could play with this first so it didn’t seem so scary when they had treatment.”
Now Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester has donated a specially built Lego radiography machine to The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre to help staff at the treatment centre explain to children how radiotherapy works.
The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre decided to see if Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester was interested in helping producing something built by its master model Builder Alex Bidolak and Sarah was thrilled when they got involved.
The attraction has made an even bigger version of the model to help other children coming into the department for treatment. Reece was thrilled to accept the new model on behalf of the hospital.
Sarah says: “Children are vulnerable and a visit to a new hospital can be a daunting experience.
“I focus a lot of the time on play, as it helps children to understand, make friends and develop relationships but more importantly to have fun.
“I spend time with each child in the radiotherapy machine room explaining how the machine works but unfortunately time is limited.
“I can use the Lego model to explain how the machine will move in more depth and answer any of their questions.
“I would like to say a massive thank you to Legoland Discovery Centre Manchester for putting the time and effort into making this model for Clatterbridge.
“It will be an invaluable tool.”
James Thomas, general manager at LegolanD Discovery Centre Manchester, says: “We’re so pleased to be involved in helping make the Lego model for the young patients at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre and really hope this recreation will help put many more children at ease when having treatment.
“It’s such a great cause and we’re honoured to have been involved with it.”
Reece is also celebrating as he has passed his 11 Plus to get into Lancaster Royal Grammar School – despite suffering a massive seizure the week before the exam.
Mum Rachel says: “Reece was selected for the Lancaster Royal Grammar School’s Inspire Us programme for gifted and talented children two years ago and the time he spent there certainly inspired him and he has had his heart set on attending the Grammar school since.
“With the life changing events of the last five months Reece has not attended school since April and has undergone some very intensive treatments and suffered the side effects of those.
“He was due to sit his 11 Plus in September and I feared through his treatment this might not happen for him.
“However after talking to Reece, he said he was still going to go for it and wanted to sit his exams.
“But the week before he was due to sit them, he suffered a massive seizure out of the blue and had to be taken to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary by ambulance and was subsequently transferred to Alder Hey with a resuscitation team and he was treated there for the following five days.
“When he was released, he was on his second cycle of chemotherapy and was not very well, suffering from an elevated temperature, a very bad cold and conjunctivitis, so the day before the exam he was in hospital all day having blood tests and observations, leaving him feeling terrible and unable to see very well due to the pain and effects of the eye infection.
“The morning of the exam he was no better but, as it was the last day he could sit for a place, in true Reece style he was determined he was going to do this and the examiner and staff at Lancaster Royal Grammar School were second to none in their support and allowed Reece to sit in a room with lights off to ease the pain.
“Reece completed his 11 Plus and we have now had confirmation that Reece has, despite all odds, reached the required standard and they would like to offer him a place at Lancaster Royal Grammar School.
“To say I’m proud of him just doesn’t quite cover it and Reece is so excited he’s achieved his dream of a place at Lancaster Royal Grammar School.
“Next September cannot come fast enough for Reece!”