Scarlett is an active 11-year-old sitting her SATs. She shares her south London home with her Mum and Dad, three sisters and one baby brother. Like many schoolgirls she loves singing, dancing and drama, but loathes spiders and wasps! She has a pet tortoise called Harry. All sounds very normal and all was very normal until one day at the end of September 2020…
Scarlett complained of a pain, which her parents found difficult to ignore. By the end of the evening, she could not feel her legs. She was quickly taken to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London. A swift MRI scan revealed a cavernoma on her spine which had burst. A cavernoma is often described as a raspberry-like cluster of abnormal blood vessels, usually found in the brain but sometimes attached to the spinal cord. It can cause seizures and stroke-like symptoms. Scarlett was operated on immediately and spent two days in intensive care. After two weeks at St George’s, she was transferred to the paediatric ward at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore.
Although Scarlett is on the Children’s Ward rather than spending time in the spinal centre, she has been able to have her rehabilitation session in Horatio’s Garden at the hospital, working with Head Gardener, Ashley Edwards, and Garden Administrator, Tracey McCarthy.
Scarlett’s father, Michael, said “Her first visit to the garden was magical. She found it so peaceful and particularly liked the bright furniture and the way the garden was laid out.”
Horatio’s Garden is well-known for providing valuable respite from the pressures of life on the ward, but for children who have no experience of being in hospital it is especially valuable. In the weeks Scarlett has spent there, as well as keeping all her schoolwork up to date, she has taken an active part in ‘garden life’.
During her sessions in the run up to the festive season she stripped willow for Christmas wreaths, handprinted Christmas cards and wrapping paper, learnt how to master a sewing machine, soon sowing her own patchwork cushion, made a soft toy (called Wonky) for her brother and another for her sister, whilst she also enjoyed some horticultural therapy thinning lettuces in the greenhouse!
Tracey McCarthy of Horatio’s Garden said, “Both Scarlett and her dad have shared how friendly it is in the garden. They have remarked on the calm atmosphere and how safe the environment is for them both. It clearly offers relief from the physiotherapy and the schoolwork, but most importantly it gives Scarlett time to be a child, be herself and have a little taste of fun.”
Whilst Scarlett isn’t yet quite sure of what she wants to be when she grows up, she’s evidently ready to make the most of whatever her future holds.
And one thing is for certain; regardless of whether she decides to become a master craftswoman, or the next Rachel de Thame, there will always be a very warm welcome awaiting Scarlett and her family in Horatio’s Garden London & South East.