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Jack’s legacy lives on through touching tribute

Tuesday January 22, 2019


A moving tribute by hospital staff to a boy from Lancing who died from a brain tumour has ensured his legacy lives on at Worthing Hospital.

The parents and sister of Jack Bray, a 12-year-old who passed away on May 24, 2014, officially named a new blood grouping machine “Jack” on Monday (14 January), in memory of their son and brother.  

The blood analyser sits next to another machine in the pathology department named “Harvey”, in memory of Jack’s friend Harvey Buster Baldwin, from Sompting.

Jack and Harvey were among the first children to receive one of the tours of hospital laboratories which now take place in more than 80 NHS hospitals, thanks the charity Harvey’s Gang, founded in memory of Harvey.

Jack’s mum, Andrina Bray, said: “Jack and Harvey were really good friends while they were in hospital and it is a lovely touch to have the two machines named after them side-by-side.”

His dad, Dan Bray, added: “It is nice of the hospital to honour Jack and keep him close to his friend. Jack brought a lot of joy to everyone he met.”

“I was really humbled by him because despite his illness, he just took it in his stride, was incredibly brave and was really bubbly and happy.

At the age of ten, Jack was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour and even during intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions that followed, Jack’s curiosity continued.

Much like his friend Harvey, he wanted to know what happened to the many blood samples doctors took once they shot down a vacuum tube that connects the children’s ward to the pathology laboratories.

Play assistant Hayley Edwards reached out to pathology colleagues and helped organise a tour of the lab where Jack was given a first-hand look at how blood samples are processed.

His mother said: “The tour was amazing and he loved it. Jack was so interested in what was going on and what stood out for us, and for him, was that the platelets on show in the lab were actually his own. He spent forever just looking at them.

“He then went back to the ward and he drew the lab team a big poster of the tubes of blood and other things that he had seen and we posted it down their tube system!”

Retired biomedical scientist, Leigh Browning, who showed Jack around the laboratory, said: “I was really humbled by him because despite his illness, he just took it in his stride, was incredibly brave and was really bubbly and happy.

“He was asking lots of questions and was really interested in why it takes the time it does to process blood. He was just fascinated by it all.”

In the years since, the charity Harvey’s Gang has expanded internationally and across the UK to help hundreds of young patients around the world understand why they need to provide blood samples.

The charity helps pathology departments host tours for children with long-term conditions, enabling the young patients to follow their blood sample’s journey and meet the biomedical scientists caring for them in hospital laboratories.

Chief biomedical scientist, Malcolm Robinson from Worthing Hospital founded the charity Harvey’s Gang in memory of Harvey Buster Baldwin, who he had personally shown around the labs before Harvey lost his battle with cancer, aged 8, in 2014. On Friday 18 January, aged 60, Malcolm retired from the NHS to focus full-time on the work of the charity.

Malcolm said: “When I launched Harvey’s Gang I promised Jack’s parents that one day I would reunite the two friends, in memory, Jack and Harvey. In my last week, before retirement, it has filled me with joy that I could live up to that promise to Andrina and Dan.”

The hospital’s two blood grouping machines, “Harvey” and “Jack”, now sit side-by-side in dedication to the two friends who made such an impression on staff at Worthing Hospital. Plans are now underway to dedicate other key pieces of laboratory equipment to young patients at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester.

For more information, please visit Malcolm’s blog by clicking here.

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