Real Lives: Mary played vital role in children’s hospital care

Mary Benson is left holding the baby as staff bid farewell to her
Mary Benson is left holding the baby as staff bid farewell to her
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WAVING a fond farewell to colleague Mary Benson after 23 years were staff at the children’s ward of St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

As a play specialist, Mary, 62, comforted children for more than two decades, helping both youngsters and their families feel at ease in their surroundings.

“I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Mary.

“I helped children cope with trauma and anxiety and, through play, helped children cope with their fears.

“Also, I supported their families because illnesses can have a domino effect.”

The ward cares for youngsters aged from newborn up to 16 years old.

“I was very fortunate in that I never once woke up and thought, ‘oh no, I have to go to work’,” said Mary, who lives with her husband, George, 62, in Livingston.

“I felt very privileged to have worked with children for such a long time and to have worked with such a fantastic group of people.

“I really feel I have left the job on a high. Now I have retired, this will be a new chapter in my life.”

In her role, Mary would tailor care to individual children, helping them to take part in activities such as arts and crafts to make their stay in hospital more comfortable.

“You don’t do a job like I did without getting very close to the young people and families and many of the children I saw returning years later with children of their own.

“In the early days, when the hospital did orthopaedic surgery, we used to have children who came in for six weeks at a time. We were trying to keep as much normality as we could.

“We don’t do orthopaedic surgery any longer, but there are families coming through with children who might have required to be in hospital on a regular basis.

“For most children coming into hospital, it’s a totally alien environment and for each parent it’s their child who is the most important thing.

“My ethos was always, if it was my child, or it was myself or my family, what would I expect?

“You had to look at each and every child as an individual and not just assume you would know what they would need.”

Mary, who was awarded an MBE in 2007 for services in the community in Livingston, was keen to credit others for the care the ward provides.

She said: “St John’s is a wonderful hospital to work in – you don’t get better than the staff on the children’s ward.

“It was quite emotional on the day I left with so many people coming to wish me good luck.

“I was overwhelmed with the generosity I received.”