This year, staff at the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) laboratories in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee started to offer young patients the chance to be trainee scientists for the day.
SNBTS has partnered with charity Harvey's Gang, to be the first laboratory in Scotland to offer special 'behind-the-scenes' visits to patients from the paediatric wards.
Harvey's Gang was launched at Worthing Hospital in the Western Sussex NHS Trust, and was named after a young Leukaemia patient who was curious as to why he needed his blood tested so many times and where his samples went.
When biomedical scientist Lesley Macdonald and her colleagues heard about the charity they decided to get in touch with the Children's Hospital at Ninewells to offer young patients the chance to be a 'trainee biomedical scientist' for the day.
Speaking about the initiative Lesley said:
"Being lab based we don't have much patient contact so having the children come to visit really reminds us of why we do our job and why it's so important. It's very humbling and an absolute pleasure to have them join us for the day."
The little visitors are given their own 'trainee scientist' name badge, a miniature lab coat and goodie bag with some stationery to take home. During tours they are shown: where the blood samples arrive and how they are digitally registered; the equipment used such as centrifuges and analysers; how blood is grouped and why this is important; and how the various components are stored and how their shelf lives differ.
Summer-Rose, 7, has received more than 30 blood and platelet transfusions during her treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) so she was very keen to see for herself where the transfusions come from.
Diagnosed in March 2016, when she was just six years old, she was initially treated at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, before being transferred to Ninewells Hospital to continue treatment which will last for two and a half years. Summer-Rose was joined by her friend and fellow patient Evie Doyle, 8, who is undergoing chemotherapy for Wilms tumour.
Summer-Rose's mother Faye said:
"The staff were very friendly and made her feel welcome. Her favourite part of the tour was seeing how fast the machines work and getting to hold a bag of blood.
"As a parent I found the tour of the labs a great experience. We hear lots of medical terms used in the hospital i.e. bloods being spun, cross matching, antibodies, and it was good to find out what these mean and watch the whole process in the lab. Now I know that Summer-Rose and I both have a better insight and understanding of the process."
Evie's mother Ellie agreed. She said:
"It's very appropriate for these tours to take place as it gives the kids a chance to see what happens after samples are taken and where the blood for transfusions comes from. Evie's always wanted to be a teacher, but now she's considering being a scientist herself!"
Another recent patient is Amber Ewing, who visited the labs with her mum Carole. Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in 2015, Amber had two intense rounds of chemotherapy at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.
Every Monday Amber, who has Down's syndrome, attends the paediatric oncology clinic at Ninewells with her mum Carole, where her treatment will continue until 2018.
"Amber wanted to visit the lab and meet the people who her samples are sent to. The tour round the labs was great. It's such a lovely thing to have on offer for the young patients as it gives them something special to do. She loves her lab coat and was delighted to get a wee goodie bag to take home along with her lab coat!
"Getting to see her enjoy herself really meant a lot to me and it helps Amber too, as now when she gets her samples taken she knows where they're going and that there's a reason behind it. The staff were all lovely and spend the time making this a day Amber won't forget."