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Editorial: Somewhere over the rainbow

A letter to a brave young boy, who inspired a charity that takes the fear out of blood tests.

Dear Harvey,

I wasn’t at your funeral, I wasn’t one of the people who cared for you while you were ill, but I met someone who did both and who is ensuring that your legacy lives way beyond the years of your short life.

Most people know all about needles and blood tests but have no idea what happens to their blood and have certainly never seen inside a laboratory. You are different, you inspired someone, a lovely kind biomedical scientist called Malcolm Robinson, to change that and to help take the fear out of blood tests. Harvey, your visit to Malcolm’s laboratory has started an incredible chain of events. 

I met Malcolm for the first time last week and he told me all about you and he also told me about some of the other children that have visited his department, been given their own little lab coat and have been shown just how important their blood tests are in helping to treat them and make them feel better. Some grown-ups who also don’t like blood tests have also visited the laboratory and they too don’t mind them so much now that they have met the people and seen what happens to their blood.

Sometimes grown-ups can make life very complicated, so we forget that the best solution to difficult and painful problems is often the simplest one. We often say that we don’t meet our patients, but maybe we need to step beyond the door of our laboratory or simply create the opportunity for a patient to see beyond the needle – just as Malcolm did for you.

Your legacy, Harvey, is a charity that is spreading across the UK and beyond. We can’t stop children becoming ill but we can be a visible part of the team that helps to care for them. All the children who now visit laboratories to see what happens to their blood are members of Harvey’s Gang, special people who, like you, understand the importance of what we do. I know grown-ups don’t usually cry but last week in our big conference in Birmingham, when Malcolm told us about how brave you and the other children in Harvey’s Gang are, it made us cry.

I hope that one day soon children will not become so ill that they need so many blood tests, but until that time comes I hope that everyone will start to see that pathology laboratories are not scary places and that the people who work there really care about their patients and want to do all they can to help them. Thank you, brave little Harvey and kind Malcolm.

Love Sarah

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