Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust Logo

Loss of 8-year-old Emily drives nature-inspired improvements for patients at Addenbrooke’s

A family from St Albans have turned the love for their 8-year-old daughter, Emily, who sadly passed away, into a lasting legacy which will benefit other patients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Press release

31 January 2024

A family from St Albans have turned the love for their 8-year-old daughter, Emily, who sadly passed away, into a lasting legacy which will benefit other patients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Sarah and Andy Smith and their son, Harry, 12, faced the unthinkable last year when they lost Emily to a rare brain tumour in the summer holidays, just 11 days after she was diagnosed.

The family set up a JustGiving page in Emily’s memory to raise money for the Addenbrooke’s teams that looked after her and for research into paediatric brain tumours and bereavement support. Within days the page had reached £5,000 in donations and has to date raised just over £30,000 with donations continuing to come in from friends, family, loved ones, and even Emily’s school who continue to fundraise in her memory. 

The Smith family wanted to do something worthwhile with the money so generously raised, so they decided to brighten up the once-drab Outpatients X-ray waiting room.

Going for scans made Emily quite anxious. The previous tired and rather unwelcoming area was not a pleasant place to sit at what can be an especially nerve-wracking time for some patients, and the space wasn’t at all calming or child-friendly.

The team from the hospital’s charity, Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT), worked together with the family on their ideas for the waiting area, incorporating several personal touches special to Emily and the Smith Family.

Emily loved going to the woods and climbing trees, so, to reflect this, the walls are wrapped in special woodland-themed vinyl. Her favourite soft toy was Rabbity, who features in the scene along with eight other rabbits – one for each year of Emily’s life. There is even a tree engraving with Emily’s name written in her handwriting. There are also puzzles on the wall to distract and keep children busy and a comfy seating area designed by Emily’s brother, Harry, with stools that look like tree stumps.

Emily’s mum, Sarah, said: “This area was in desperate need of refurbishment and did not have a separate children’s waiting area at all. We hope this environment helps to calm young patients down, that the relaxing, natural scene grounds them and they might take a minute and wonder who Emily was and marvel at her wood.”

Donna Lee-Willis, ACT Head of Community Fundraising, said: “When the family mentioned that Emily used to get upset when she went for CT scans, we knew we had to help make this area of the hospital a nicer place to be. Improving the space meant a lot to the family and it is already having a big impact on the 200-300 patients who use it every single day.”

Lucy Swain, Addenbrooke’s Outpatients X-ray Manager, said: “Once the vinyls were installed, patients immediately commented on how calming the new space looked. The new reception desk has also provided more space and storage making it a nicer place to work – the entire team now feels a sense of pride working in this beautiful area.

“None of it would have been possible without the generous money donated by the Smith family in honour of their daughter. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to them for helping us improve the patient experience in this area and creating a space that everyone can enjoy.”

This project is a great example of how ACT works tirelessly to make sure all monies raised are spent where the need is greatest across the hospital. We work closely with the hospital, and our supporters, to ensure their donations are put to good use at Addenbrooke’s to make it even better for patients.

If you would like to thank the hospital click here.

Return to news