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Eddie Echo wins hearts at BMA awards

Posted on Thursday 24th September 2015
Staff at Evelina London celebrate BMA award win for Eddie Echo book

Clare Perrett and Melinda Edwards with illustrator Jeannie Ford, photographer Joel Virgo, and Samantha Johnson from ECHO.

A book to help prepare children for heart surgery has been recognised as a ‘highly commended resource’ by the British Medical Association (BMA).

Eddie Echo and Me at Evelina London supports parents and healthcare professionals who are preparing children for heart surgery or treatment at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

The BMA Patient Information Awards celebrate accessible, well-designed and clinically balanced information for patients.

Melinda Edwards, head of psychology at Evelina London and co-author of the book, says: “The awards ceremony was a great event. Our ambition was to create a valuable resource for children and families at Evelina London and we’re delighted to have been recognised beyond this.

“The BMA president, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, gave a hugely inspiring speech about the importance of appropriately informing patients in order to empower and engage them as fully as possible in their own care. This was certainly the aim with our book.”

Play specialist Clare Perrett had the initial idea when she noticed that there wasn’t anything of this kind for younger children. After teaming up with Melinda, they worked together to write and develop the idea into a book.

Eddie Echo and Me at Evelina London talks children through the hospital experience using lovable character, Eddie Echo the bear. It includes meeting the hospital team, explaining tests like an echocardiogram (ECHO) and electrocardiogram (ECG) and to preparing to go home.

Potentially scary procedures are broken down and put into terms that children can relate to, such as explaining an ECHO as a picture of your heart, sometimes known as ‘jelly on the belly’.

Clare says: “We knew that health professionals and parents needed help to be able to talk to younger children about what was happening to them so that they felt safe and supported. It’s difficult to talk about a major procedure with a young child without using long and scary words.”

Preparing children helps them feel more familiar and secure within the hospital environment, so they can cope and feel better about managing any procedures, including surgery. 

In addition to being used as a preparation book, Eddie Echo and Me at Evelina London can also be used after a child’s hospital stay. It gives parents an opportunity to talk through their child’s experiences and address any questions or concerns.

Clare adds: “I felt an enormous sense of pride when I came to work one day to see a dad cuddled up with his child reading the book in one of our playrooms. 

“Melinda and I want to give special thanks to Evelina Children’s Heart Organisation (ECHO). Their support enabled the development of the book, including lending us their mascot, Eddie Echo, as the lead character. We also want to thank all the families and staff at Evelina London who contributed. The children featured in the book are our little stars,” adds Clare.

Copies of the book are free for families and available from Evelina London or ECHO.