Hospital Worker Shares Genius Magic String Hack To Make Radiotherapy Less Frightening For Children With Cancer

'They give it a little tug and parents can tug right back.'

A hospital worker has shared a genius hack for helping children with cancer feel less alone while undergoing radiotherapy.

Lobke Marsden, a mum-of-three and radiotherapy play specialist, posted a photo of a spool of multi-coloured “magic string” on Twitter.

“Children will be in the treatment room by themselves during radiotherapy,” she explained.

“To help ease separation anxiety the child holds one side of the string and the parent the other side, so they’ve still got that connection.

“Simple but effective.”

Marsden, who works at Leeds Children’s Hospital NHS Trust and is based at the radiotherapy department at Bexley Wing, St James Hospital, told HuffPost UK that this is a technique she often employs.

“As you can imagine radiotherapy can be daunting at any age - being left in a room by yourself often wearing a mask that is clipped to the treatment bed to keep you still for treatment,” she said.

“Most children that come and see us are used to having scans with their parents in the room, but unfortunately for us (because of the radiation) that isn’t an option.

“Separation from their parent can be a real challenge.

“The string is perfect for children that really need that connection with their parents. They often give it a little tug, and the parents tug it back from the other room to let the child know they are right there with them.”

Marsden explained that she and her team learned about the magic string technique 10 years ago and have been using it ever since.

“It has proven to be the cheapest and one of the best pieces of ‘equipment’ we own,” she said.

Lobke Marsden works as a play specialist at Leeds Children’s Hospital NHS Trust.
Lobke Marsden
Lobke Marsden works as a play specialist at Leeds Children’s Hospital NHS Trust.

Marsden has been working as a play specialist since 2004.

Health play specialists work with children and young people who are in hospital or attending a medical clinic.

They use play as a therapeutic tool to help children understand their illness and treatment.

“The most important part of my job is to make the hospital experience less frightening and to be the child’s ‘voice’,” Marsden explained.

“Preparation is very important. It eliminates fears of the unknown and gives the child a sense of control.”