Rusthall parents’ chair design gives hospital babies a boost

Connie Banner and the special chair

A SPECIAL chair for paediatric hospital beds is to give tiny children in intensive care the opportunity to sit up and play, thereby improving their quality of life and boosting chances of rehabilitation.

The Connie Medical Chair was designed by Rusthall-based parents Russ and Vikki Banner, whose daughter, Connie, was born in 2019 with a congenital heart defect. She spent the first and the last part of her short life in hospital, where it was a great challenge to play, develop and interact.

At three weeks of age, she had surgery that was initially successful. However, in 2020, there were complications following a second planned surgery, and they lost her that November, at the age of 20 months.

Connie spent three months in the Evelina Hospital in London, and her father, Russ, said: “We soon realised there wasn’t really any decent chair that would go into the cot bed that would provide her with some sit-up-and-play time.

“She would have pillows, or an external chair, which would take a lot of time and effort to get into, so I began to ask questions of the nurses, physios and doctors.”

Research has shown that early “mobilisation” of a child after surgery can significantly benefit their physical and psychological wellbeing. But moving a tiny intensive care patient to a “high chair” also means moving cables and tubes, which requires time and effort by a number of adults.

The new chair, created by Russ and Vikki in conjunction with a team of designers, physios, occupational therapists and play experts, sits in a cot bed and gives a patient much longer time to sit up and play or interact with family.

“Connie, whilst not walking, was able to develop great fine motor skills,” Russ told the Times.

She enjoyed colouring, using stickers, playing at tea parties, and messy play.

“The Connie Medical Chair would have helped with this and given her extra play time when she wasn’t tired,” he said.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t exist at the time of her life, so our legacy is to do just that for other children in hospital or hospice care.”

Russ and Vikki registered their charity earlier in March, and are hoping to raise £200,000 to manufacture and install the chairs in the 22 children’s hospitals up and down the country, as well as 55 children’s hospices.

The unit is designed for children from about eight months to four years old, both post-surgery or in palliative care, Russ explained.

“However, those age ranges are for children who are of normal age and size. Often, like Connie, children with life-limiting conditions don’t grow that quickly, so the design could aid slightly older children.”

Connie Medical Chair is a registered charity. Find out more or donate at:

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