Megan Sinclair is five years old, impossibly cute and lives in a special little world inhabited only by her.
Megan attends Glenlaw House a little-known and very particular health facility in Dundee, one of only three in the whole of the country. Most people in the city have never even heard of it.
Glenlaw is part of the Kings Cross Hospital complex and it looks after children with “profound and complex disabilities”, the sort of young people who need constant care and assistance with simplest tasks.
The house provides a “home from home” for children and young people, from babies to 18 years, and all are provided with individual care and support, while giving their parents a much-needed break to re-charge their batteries for a short while.
There’s some long and complicated words to describe Megan’s condition but the bottom line is that this bonny, dark-haired lass was born differently and is thus on a life journey that is her very own.
She sits quietly in her little chair and looks away as her granddad and primary carer Allan Petrie (43) praises the unit.
“Glenlaw’s amazing,” he states.
“The care they provide is so individual, even down to cooking the children’s meals right here on the premises.
“When Megan’s with them overnight I still wake up sometimes, a sudden panic because I can’t hear the bairn but then I remember she’s here. She’s safe and happy and with the best people looking after her.
“It really makes you think what it must be like for families who work and have other children what would life be like without Glenlaw?
“It would be impossible.”
Allan, from Linlathen, added that neurologists “the best in Scotland” are handling Megan’s case but what the future holds is anyone’s guess.
As he talks, Megan turns and looks at me. Big angelic eyes full of wonder. She’s tugging her bottom lip and looking thoughtful. I say her name and she smiles and it’s like the sun lighting up the whole room.
Christine Dempster, senior charge nurse with the Paediatric Complex Disability Service, said, “Up to five children can stay in Glenlaw at any one time.
“Once a child is referred to Glenlaw, the parents and child will visit and if they are happy to proceed, a keyworker is assigned to them.
“We then work with the families to ensure that we have all the necessary information to help us care for the child.
“We find out about their likes and dislikes, the equipment they use, their tastes, their normal daily routine and even the colours or music they respond to.
“Everything is done to make the children happy and content.”
Glenlaw is small but, importantly, doesn’t have the atmosphere of a hospital. There are many pieces of specialist equipment available to ensure the children’s comfort and safety during their stay, including specialist beds and seating.
Glenlaw is lucky to benefit from the kindness of others and fortunately, there are some big hearts out there and funds come in from such diverse supporters as the tea bar staff in Dundee Sheriff Court and a local biker group.
Perhaps it’s only the families who use the facility who really appreciate the hard work and unending compassion that goes on in Glenlaw, but it’s another small part of Dundee that we can all be proud of.‘We want to make sure the children have fun’Glenlaw has a sensory room, as well as a wide range of specialist toys as colour, texture, sound and smell strike a chord for babies and children with complex healthcare needs.Senior charge nurse Christine said: “Youngsters love to visit the facility’s sensory garden, which has a wheelchair-accessible swing and it allows the children to get as much fresh air as possible.
“Activities such as trips to the cinema are also planned. We want to make sure the children have fun.”
Glenlaw House takes children from across Tayside and North-East Fife and works closely with a team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists, Kingspark School in Dundee, Fairview School in Perth and Armitstead Child Development Centre.
Charge nurse Alison Marshall said youngsters staying at Glenlaw get the chance to socialise with other children.
She said, “It’s important that when the children visit they have peers other children of the same age who have similar needs, and who attend school or nursery together.”
The unit has a team of 18 dedicated staff, including learning disability and paediatric nurses and health care support workers. Each case is different but generally, a child will stay at Glenlaw House for four weekdays and one to two weekends during a 10-week period.