Dumfries & Galloway Health & Social Care

Cupar first to make laboratory visit in Harvey’s Gang initiative

A CHANCE to see behind the scenes at a hospital laboratory has been offered to a young boy from the region.


For the very first time, NHS Dumfries and Galloway has partnered with national charity Harvey’s Gang which offers children a chance to see behind the scenes of medical laboratories.


And on April 8 2019, six-year-old Cupar Rush from Castle Douglas was given a special tour of the Blood Sciences laboratory at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary in Dumfries which helped diagnose his medical condition acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, or ALL.


Specialist Biomedical Scientist Gayle Johnstone said: “We were really thrilled to welcome six-year-old Cupar Rush and his eight-year-old sister Ailsa as the first visitors into our laboratory thanks to Harvey’s Gang.


“Cupar has spent time in DGRI in the past, and had a good understanding of the work which takes place in a hospital.


“However, you don’t really get to see what happens when samples are taken for testing, so this initiative is an excellent way to demystify that process and introduce all the people busy working away behind-the-scenes to help people who aren’t well.”


Cupar finished his treatment for ALL in October, and his visit to the laboratory provided a chance to meet Specialist Biomedical Scientist Keith Middlemiss who was part of the team in the lab that actually diagnosed Cupar’s condition. Specialist Biomedical Scientist Sue Jeffrey also assisted in the tour. The paediatric lead for Harvey’s gang is Paediatric Ward Staff Nurse Sharron McGarva who also attended the tour.


For the tour, Cupar and Ailsa were presented with special white lab coats sponsored by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS). Cupar didn’t want to wear his coat at first, but when he saw his sister wearing it he quickly put it on.


Accompanied by parents Paul and Tracy, the youngsters got to play ‘I Spy’ around the lab, got to send Harvey the penguin – named by Cupar –  in the pod to paediatrics and wait for a reply, look down the microscope at blood films and draw what they saw, try a colour reaction experiment and handle real blood and platelet bags.


And the day was rounded off by a presentation of certificates, which saw Cupar and Ailsa officially become honorary Biomedical Scientists.

Both Cupar and Ailsa received a goodie bag sponsored by Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, with items including a lanyard, coloured pencils, red leather journal, large red blood cell and many activities to do at home, compiled by Gayle.

Harvey’s Gang was set up by Worthing Hospital’s Chief Biomedical Scientist Malcolm Robinson in memory of a little boy called Harvey Buster Baldwin. The children’s ward contacted Malcolm as Harvey (7), who had leukaemia, wanted to know where his blood samples went and what happened to them.

Malcolm arranged for Harvey to come to the pathology labs for a tour and answer all his questions. Harvey loved the tour and the visit was so successful that in his memory ‘Harvey’s Gang’ was set up. Malcolm has won many awards and received recognition for his work with Harvey’s Gang. Due to his dedication, it has expanded to over 47 sites across the globe – with DGRI now proudly being one of them.


Gayle Johnstone said: “It was such a fun time for Cupar and Ailsa, and our teams really enjoyed meeting them, answering their questions and explaining our work.


“We’re delighted that our first laboratory visit through the Harvey’s Gang charity was such a success, and we’re already looking forward to the next one – which will take place in May.”


The first DGRI Harvey’s gang tour can be seen on the Harvey’s gang blog.