Comfort and Moral Support from a Friend

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Meet Ellie, mother behind the Instagram account Picturemyplay! Eli is from Bristol in the UK and is a mother to 7-year-old Zee who has special needs and complex medical health challenges. We've been following Zee for a while and wanted to know more about them. Here's their story:

The day after he was born, we were told he was deaf. For his first few years we used hearing aids and cochlear implants, to see if he could access sound. It turned out he couldn’t, however it was during this time we saw the benefit of using a doll to mimic wearing the device.

He then was diagnosed with hypoglycaemia which requires monitoring blood sugar levels. Again, using a doll to show him what we were about to do gave Zee a greater understanding. The same when we began daily growth hormone injections, had operations or was given a feeding tube. In fact, everything Zee has gone through, he’s had a doll by his side.

The surgeons at our local children’s hospital are fantastic and his doll comes out of theatre with the same bandages, name tags and cannulas as Zee. Play specialists and nurses use the doll to show what is happening today just as much as we did when he was a baby.

At 2 and a half year-old he required an additional feeding tube. One into his intestines and one in his stomach. He really doesn’t like having these changed. However, helping Max have his changed first has helped us see a huge improvement. Also holding Max during procedures we’ve seen Zee able to focus and control his breathing better, to stay calm.

It’s not just the help to understand procedures either. Because we adapted Max to give him matching feeding tubes, Zee has someone who looks like him. Even more so when they are wearing matching clothes!

I love that Max can wear real baby clothes. It gives Zee the opportunity to practice all the dressing skills he needs to learn for himself. Buttons, poppers, zips and more. He’s gaining more patience when he finds these tricky too. He even likes to wash and peg out the clothes. Something we never thought would happen since the age of two when he developed a phobia for water. Our occupational therapist used a doll to show Zee that water was safe and fun and although it took time it’s something he now enjoys.

Zee struggles in social situations and busy or new places. Taking his doll gives him support and comfort. I watch him signing to Max then using Max’s hands to sign a reply. If we didn’t have a doll with us in these situations, we’d find Zee unable to make eye contact (something that’s very important when you communicate via sign language) and clearly stressed by the crowds.

Max is a member of the family now. He has enriched Zee’s life and ours. Having a child who is happy is all we could hope for and that doesn’t mean he needs heaps of fancy things. He just needs to feel understood in the world. And baby Max has been our answer to that happiness.

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