Thomas, nine, toured Pinderfields Hospital as part of health charity scheme

From left are Sarah Seymour, hospital play leader, Suzanne Hullah, Scot Pickard, Dr Iain Woodrow, clinical biochemist with Ben Pickard, aged six,  and Thomas Pickard, nine.
From left are Sarah Seymour, hospital play leader, Suzanne Hullah, Scot Pickard, Dr Iain Woodrow, clinical biochemist with Ben Pickard, aged six, and Thomas Pickard, nine.

A nine year old boy from Wakefield who has spent his whole life having weekly blood tests got to find out what happens to his blood samples thanks to a charity scheme.

Thomas Pickard was the first person to be invited to Pinderfields Hospital pathology lab under an initiative called Harvey’s Gang.

The scheme was formed to allow young people with long-term health conditions and needle phobias to visit medical laboratories and see what happens to their blood.

Thomas was diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease at just five months old, which led to him developing a coronary aneurism. He now takes warfarin to thin his blood every day and monitors his blood weekly to ensure that his levels of warfarin are accurate to maintain his health.

Thomas said: “Going round the lab was good. There were footprints on the floor I had to follow which is the way the blood goes round the lab. I got to go in a big fridge where they keep all the blood and look down a microscope at some blood cells. They were all purple.

“I also got to wear a lab coat so I looked like a scientist – they let me keep it.”

Thomas’ parents have now been trained to be able to test his blood at home which makes life a little easier for the family.

Iain Woodrow, a clinical biochemist at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, organised the Harvey’s Gang trip for Thomas.

He said: “I’m delighted to see how much Thomas and his family enjoyed the trip around the lab.

“People never usually get to see what happens once their blood sample is collected and I think this helps children to visualise where the sample goes and what is done to it in order for us to get the results we need.

“We are very keen to organise more trips for children with Harvey’s Gang and are looking at the possibility of getting some of the inpatients on the children’s ward to come along too.”

Harvey’s Gang began because a little boy called Harvey Buster Baldwin, who was being treated for acute myeloid leukaemia, at Worthing Hospital. Harvey was curious to see where his blood went when it was tested, why it needed to be done so many times, and how it would help the hospital staff to decide what blood he needed as part of his treatment.

Sadly, Harvey passed away in October 2014, but his curiosity and the visit that followed inspired the chief haematology biomedical scientist at Worthing, Malcolm Robinson, to start what is now a national initiative, currently taken up by more than 40 hospitals, to increase the involvement and knowledge of patients and their families in the laboratory aspects of their treatment.