The story of Josh, our researcher for Look Inside a Hospital
For the new Usborne lift-the-flap book Look Inside a Hospital, author Katie Daynes enlisted the help of 5-year-old Josh Hammond – a very brave leukaemia patient. Katie and Josh's mum Katie explain how he eagerly took on the research role.
Look Inside a Hospital co-author Katie Daynes introduces her youngest researcher, Josh Hammond:
The designers had just started sketching out the lay-outs for the first pages of Look Inside a Hospital when I received heart-breaking news from one of my oldest and dearest friends, also called Katie. Her middle son Josh, aged only five, had been diagnosed with leukaemia.
No words seemed adequate, specially not on WhatsApp or Facebook, and Katie lives the other side of the world in Australia, so the massive hug I wanted to give her was way out of reach.
The more I studied hospital interiors for the Usborne title, the more I thought of brave little Josh on his way to the next gruelling round of chemo. That's when I wondered whether I could involve Josh in our book. Maybe being an undercover detective for us – telling us what it's really like inside a hospital – could give him something positive to focus on.
Josh with Look Inside a Hospital (Photo © Katie Hammond)
Well, not only did Josh jump at the chance to be our 'researcher boy' (his words), he rose to the challenge magnificently. The design team and I put together questions ranging from what do you take when you go into hospital to how do you choose your meals, then emailed them to Josh via his mum and eagerly awaited a response.
We learned about his favourite nurses Bridget and Chrissie (you can meet Chrissie in the book), the importance of an iPad and a teddy (Blue Roar the dinosaur), the long walk from the car park (down eight ramps), Josh's favourite place (the play room!) and much, much more. Katie accompanied Josh's descriptions with some photos taken on her phone and together they helped us to build a believable hospital out of cardboard flaps.
We've had a fabulous group of experts working and advising on this book, including my co-author Dr Zoe Fritz and her colleagues at Addenbrookes Hospital in the UK, but being able to couple their wisdom with the observations of a brave young patient has truly brought the book to life. Thank you Josh!
Josh's mum, Katie Hammond, tells their side of the story:
Josh was immensely proud to take on the role of Usborne Researcher. He was very clear that he wanted the book to stop children being scared of going to hospital, because “everyone in a hospital actually wants to help you mummy”. He said this as though it was new news, in an amazed tone of voice. Usborne would send him questions, he would consider carefully, use the amazing oncology nurses as his soundboard, and then tell me his answers.
I will never forget the hours being dictated to by an earnest 5-year-old while his chemo machine beeped and whirred next to us, long ‘lines’ getting tangled up in the bedsheets as the fluorescent medicines dripped into his little body. He described the playrooms, the ward, the nurses… I would glance sidelong at him from time to time and be floored by the complete lack of fear in this child.
Josh feeling poorly, with his favourite dinosaur toy (Photo © Katie Hammond)
How quickly they adapt; at the start of treatment I physically had to drag Josh, kicking and screaming, towards the swing doors of the Emergency Department. Now he basically seems to think he owns half the paediatric oncology ward. We adults all go on about resilience, but it is an over-used buzzword for a reason: children are naturally insanely resilient. Mind-blowingly so.
As I write this, we are only halfway through Josh's treatment. We still have a year to go, but Josh has started school and is doing as well as can be hoped. No-one tells us the longed-for ‘everything will be fine’, but they say he is doing really well.
Before Josh's diagnosis I often found myself almost panicked about how bleak and horrible today’s world can seem, how on earth were we meant to raise three boys into this mess that homo sapiens has created. Well in the last year we have felt such a deluge of warmth and love on a personal level from friends, family, medical staff and total strangers. Good comes from bad. And that is what is going to get us through this. And if God forbid it happens to you, or someone you know, then that is what will get you through it too.
In November 2019 Josh was given the all clear! This photo of him jumping for joy sums up how we all feel at Usborne now.