Sheffield Children’s Hospital unveil out of this world backdrop for revolutionary new £800,000 scanner

A state-of-the-art scanner which will allow doctors to diagnose young patients quicker than ever before has been given a fitting home in a galaxy of stars at Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Friday, 1st February 2019, 8:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 4:03 pm
Mark Haines, Lead Practitioner in Nuclear Medicine, pictured, by the SPECT CT scanner. Picture: NSST-30-01-19-SPECTScanner-3

Kids with cancer, epilepsy, painful injuries or neuro-disabilities will all benefit from the new £800,000 SPECT CT scanner, which has been funded by members of the public and businesses across the region through the hospital’s dedicated charity.

But your money has not only bought a highly-advanced piece of diagnostic equipment which will save time and mean less discomfort for patients, the room the space-age piece of kit sits in has been specially designed as well.

14-year-old Gemma Dias with Sheffield Children's Hospital's new SPECT CT scanner.

On the walls surrounding the high tech scanner, stars twinkle and shimmer in real constellations thanks to hundreds of fibre optic lights, all with the aim of distracting the youngsters from what could otherwise be a scary experience.

14-year-old Gemma Dias from Hull is one of the first patients to benefit from it.

Gemma became ill in December 2017 when she suffered with her a pain in her stomach. It became so severe she had to stop attending school.

Initial tests proved inconclusive, so she was recently referred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital to use the SPECT CT scanner.

Sheffield Children's Hospital's new SPECT CT scanner.

She said: “The first time I came here I was in the scanner for one hour. The stars on the wall and the ceiling were really nice and definitely helped to keep me distracted.

“They offered for me to watch a DVD while I was laid there but I said I’d prefer to look at the decorations! I think they will appeal to anyone of any age, because they’re lovely to look at. They’re mesmerising!”

Gemma’s dad, Marc Dias, 50, said: “She used to be into gymnastics and trampolining and was a very fit child. It’s just a case of undergoing tests to find out exactly what’s wrong.

“When we walked in to the hospital, the first thing I said was ‘wow - this is a superb facility’. When you look at the scanner, you don’t see a scary machine, lighting effects and the stars, it is really child-friendly.”

Dan Walker with Sheffield Children's Hospital's new SPECT CT scanner.

“We decided to come to Sheffield Children’s Hospital because the best expertise for her problem and the most renowned experts are based here. The care we’ve had has been outstanding.”

“The staff have been brilliant, as soon as you walk in, everyone’s here for you. The environment is so welcoming, it’s unlike any other hospital I’ve been to. Some of the tests Gemma has had are quite long and difficult, but they’ve been great at helping her through it and making her feel at ease.”

“All I can say is thank you to everyone who has donated to The Children’s Hospital Charity make this possible. At the end of the day, this brings us one step closer to finding out what’s wrong with Gemma and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

SPECT CT is a ‘dual-imaging’ scanner, meaning radiologists will be able to take standard CT images and nuclear scans at once, providing more certainty for doctors and meaning more tailored treatment.

Mark Haines, lead practitioner in radiology and nuclear medicine at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, said: “With this scanner, we are able to provide functional images within the body alongside anatomical images.

“When these images are fused together, our doctors are able to identify the position of any active disease more precisely than ever before. This is particularly useful in cancer imaging for treatment planning and assessment.

“The ability to have two scans performed during one visit also provides a better experience for our patients and reduces their number of visits to hospital.”

The cost of the scanner was raised throughout 2017 and helped by The Children’s Hospital Charity’s National Elf Service campaign, which encouraged supporters to take part in festive fun and fancy dress.

The appeal’s total was doubled by three big-hearted local businessmen, Graham Royle of GRI Group, Matt Davison of Portland Investment Group and another donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Dan Walker’s celebrity golf day contributed a further £50,000 while the ‘Children’s Champions’ group of individuals, companies and private family trusts raised £78,000 towards the cost.