By Lucy Wilson
Kathryn Topham, has worked on the burn unit at Sheffield Children’s Hospital for six years.
Working as a play specialist, the 39-year-old provides play and distraction to the patients that come through the unit. “Distraction is important because it can get really horrible here,” says Kathryn. “The children need something nice to remember it by.”
Many years ago, Kathryn applied to work at the unit when it was situated at the Northern General, but she was too inexperienced. “I used to work in A&E, but I’ve always wanted to work in burns,” says Kathryn. “I don’t really know why.” When the job was advertised again, she applied and finally managed to bag her dream job.
Kathryn works 37 and-a-half hours a week and travels 50 minutes on public transport daily to look after children who have sustained a burn injury. “I get to meet some lovely families and children and I work with a great team – I really enjoy it,” she says.
“I have to detach myself.”
Working full-time in a burns ward can get intense for people like Kathryn. “When we get children in who are very poorly, it can become tiring in an emotional way,” she says. “I have to detach myself, but some children really stick in my mind, which will upset me.”
Once, an eight-year-old girl who spent weeks being treated at the unit gave Kathryn a star decoration to thank her. She says, “It really touched me. I had done a lot of work with her and she’s one of the children that I’ll never forget.”
After her shift, Kathryn takes a walk across the moor to get her bus back home to Dronfield – a time when she is able to reflect on a tough day’s work. “I don’t want to take it home, I’ll end up divorced!” she says.
The burns ward in Sheffield treats on average 300 children a year, covering Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley, North Derbyshire, North Nottinghamshire and East Riding.
In 2010, Kathryn and one other member from the burns ward created ‘Theo’s Burns Club,’ a charity that helps support children with burns and their families after recovery. The club raises money to offer children fun days out and to enable them to attend camps where they can meet other burn survivors. “Having a burn can be quite isolating,” says Kathryn. “They need all the support that they can get.”
When Kathryn has spare time, she enjoys cooking and watching movies. “I really enjoy cooking, I find it therapeutic – it’s my down time.”