‘Outstanding’ hospital specialist who brings comfort to sick children through play to be honoured at Aintree

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  • A hospital specialist who helps comfort sick children through play will be recognised for her “outstanding work” by being named as the honorary 35th runner in the 2024 Randox Grand National this Saturday (13 April).

    Amanda Walker, a play specialist in the A&E department at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, helps children during their time there. This can be through play or by providing them with toys and equipment such as iPads and VR headsets

    If a patient needs further treatment, for example a scan or a blood test, she will help demonstrate the step-by-step process by using dolls, example medical equipment and storyboards, to help them feel relaxed and reassured.

    “I love the job because you’re always a friend to someone,” said Amanda. “You can see a child who comes in so scared, and they can leave so relieved and happy, and being a part of that is great.

    “When we’re speaking to the patients and their families, everyone is so worried and they don’t know what’s going to happen next, so to be able to make their experience a bit more pleasurable and make them feel a bit more reassured is what this job is all about.”

    Amanda’s career has always revolved around caring for children, including working as a nursery nurse, as a nanny, and in a school before studying for her play specialist qualification.

    She will be joined by other members of the play specialist department from the hospital as guests at this year’s Randox Grand National Festival.

    “I’ve got my hat ready! I’m very excited to be attending and am really looking forward to it, as well as being very proud to represent Alder Hey. A big thank you to Jockey Club for the opportunity, and for the support they’ve shown us throughout the years,” she said.

    Alder Hey has a 22-year association with Aintree racecourse. The final race on ladies’ day (Friday, 12 April) will be run as the Alder Hey Handicap Hurdle and the racecourse will also be handing out 110 complimentary tickets to Alder Hey for each day of the festival.

    The annual visit of jockeys to the hospital will take place on Friday morning and will include 2021 Grand National-winning jockey Rachael Blackmore, Patrick Mullins, Harry Skelton and the now 23-year-old former winning horse Neptune Collonges.

    Dickon White, The Jockey Club’s regional director for Aintree racecourse and the northwest, said: “Aintree’s relationship with Alder Hey is an extremely close one which now stretches back over two decades.

    “We are delighted to strengthen it even further by naming Amanda Walker as the honorary 35th runner in the 2024 Randox Grand National in recognition of her outstanding work as a play specialist.

    “It is also tremendous news that a race will be run in Alder Hey’s name on ladies’ day, following on from the ever-popular visit by jockeys to the hospital in the morning.”

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