Friday, 6 September 2013

Street Talk: Breaking The Rules With Captain Starlight!

Today for Street Talk I travelled down to Westmead Childrens Hospital to meet Captain Starlight. Technically it's against the rules to have a prepared person for Street Talk, but some rules are meant to be broken.

It's huge, almost like its own city. I'd never been there before. I've been around the corner to Westmead Fertility Clinic where Rocco was made - five years old and never had one overnight hospital stay. Fit as a Malley bull. Same with Max - I am SO lucky to have healthy children.

As soon as I walked into the Starlight Room I could feel the fun and mayhem. Captain Thunderbolt and Captain Qwerky were filming their own Finding Nemo montage with some patients. Their excitement was catching.

They also transmitted their own TV show, which children could watch from their beds on the wards. And call in to request movies, answer quizzes, or just for a chat. Best talkback ever!

I sat down for over an hour with this lady, Steph. NEVER have I seen somebody so animated and passionate about their job before. Steph is basically co-ordinator of ... everything. She told me so much.  As we sat together in the hospital cafe, a whole world of busyness was going on behind her. Mostly the transporting of patients, all young. Steph told me the ins and outs of each day, of what the Starlight room and Captains mean to the children during their hospital stay.

"If they're well enough, they come down to the Starlight Room. We open at 10.30am and close at 5pm. There's craft, computer games, two iPads, filming. I love watching how each Captain acts with each individual child. The Captains are always learning, growing, and evolving. Sometimes pushed to their very limit. It's amazing to see."

A lot of parents drop by the room too, as well as siblings of the patients. Steph tells me that it's common for parents to just sit down and colour in, mindlessly. Often, they fall asleep in one of the silver beanbags.

"Sometimes we've had parents out for HOURS, just desperately needing that rest."

I wondered what it must be like to have your child here for big stays. How wrenching and scary and impacting it probably is, for so many. I asked her if it was ever sad and Steff said yes, of course. That sometimes the Captains get very close to a child who passes away. She also told me that they have a completely different program for teenagers; oftentimes teens are in hospital due to mental health issues which is a whole different ballgame.

Basically, Starlight do AMAZING THINGS.

Steff says there are over ninety-five Captains across the country. Starlight has a presence in most major children's hospitals across Australia. Who knew? They help the kids to forget, just for a little while, that they are sick and in hospital. The Captains are SO much fun. They go visit the wards every day, to see the children too sick to get out of their beds. And the Captains often visit hospitals who have no Starlight. (Yet.)

When I was about three or four years old I remember staying overnight in hospital for an ear infection. The nurses wore those big wide white hats like the flying nun. All I remember is being PETRIFIED and getting told to go to sleep. Quite harshly.

That's Captain Qwerky on the left and Captain Thunderbolt on the right. I asked Captain Thunderbolt how long he has worked here.

"I've been on planet earth for ten years now."

I asked him what training he did - he said he'd done 98 years training on Planet Starlight, and Captain Qwerky had done 99.

"I had to repeat a year."

(Basically I broke the rules today but they didn't - they didn't break character ONCE.)

Seriously, look what these Captains do.

SUCH special people.

The NRL Footy Show recently visited and did some filming in the Starlight Room - in two weeks they're going to hold a telethon to raise money!

Also, this September is host a Starlight Movie Night. You can hold one, and help Starlight raise $700,000 to inspire the imaginations of sick kids and transform their hospital experience. Deets HERE.

You can also buy an exclusive Shine On Kids DVD featuring a special collection of kids programs including Hi -5, Peppa Pig, The Wiggles, Chuggington, My Little Pony, Curious George, Jungle Book, The Looney Tunes Show, and Wow Wow Wubbzy. Available from Big W, Coles, JB Hi-Fi, Kmart, Sanity, Target and Woolworths, the DVD has more than three hours of content and at least $5 from every sale is donated to Starlight.

“Starlight is a very good example of what miracles are all about. Because of the work and the facilities Starlight provide, our children actually look forward to visiting the hospital for treatment. They have so much fun in the Starlight Express Rooms and Captain Starlight is amazing.” - Starlight Parent

It was quite challenging for me to drive down there today, for a few reasons. But I pushed myself - and I'm so glad I did. After I said goodbye to the team and the kids I walked through the huge hospital and again thanked my lucky stars. I passed a gorgeous baby girl who would have been about six months old, sitting up bright as a button, playing with her drip.

Starlight on twitter
Starlight on Facebook

(I wasn't paid in any way for this post.)


Previous Street Talks:

1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy
7. Michael the Photographer
8. Peg the Lady
9. Jeff the Preacher Man
10. Andres the Cobbler
11. Honey the Prostitute
12. Mark the Masseur
13. You the Blog Reader
14. Jo the Podiatrist
15. Casey the Uni Student
16. Dream the Horse and Carriage Driver
17. Tamas the Hungarian Accordionist
18. The Dignified Trolley Ladies
19. Alex With The Studded Hot Pink Belt
20. Leaf The Fallen
21. Bel Of The Library
22. Jay And His Big Issue
23. Emma The Adult Shop Cashier
24. Teena, Saver Of Dogs
25. The Luna Park Face
26. Gary The Missing
27. Kristen at the Elephant Bean Cafe
28. Uncle Paul
29. Jess The Mama
30. The Two People At The Checkout
31. Alfie The Pourer

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Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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