Newton Aycliffe boy names RVI Bubble Unit puppet

Theerdarw is a unique name given to the Great North Children’s Hospital’s Bubble Unit puppet devised by schoolboy Peter Dunnington Waters

Peter Dunnington-West of Newton Aycliffe with "Theerdarw" the puppet and Denise Robertson
Peter Dunnington-West of Newton Aycliffe with "Theerdarw" the puppet and Denise Robertson

With his bright blue hair and orange body, puppet Theerdarw is helping poorly youngsters feel at ease at a North East hospital.

Theerdarw is being used in an informative video to educate parents and children about what to expect when they are admitted to the Great North Children’s Hospital’s Bubble Unit.

A competition was launched to choose a name for the puppet and yesterday television agony aunt and Journal columnist Denise Robertson announced the winner.

Theerdarw is a unique name devised by schoolboy Peter Dunnington Waters, 11, who recently had a bone marrow transplant to save his life.

The name is cleverly formed from an anagram of “ward three”, which is the Bubble Unit at the hospital, based at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Denise, who is patron of the Bubble Foundation, said: “I chose Theerdarw, partly because it is using the letters of ward three and secondly he just looked, I thought, rather distinguished so his name needed to reflect that.

“They gave me four entries and I thought Peter’s choice was the right one as it was spot on.

“The video is going to speed up the initial phases of treatment because the video will help the child to be more relaxed.”

The “Welcome to the children’s transplant unit” DVD enables children and their families to see what is involved when they are admitted for a donor stem cell transplant.

The 15-minute silent film begins with Theerdarw entering the hospital and shows the rooms of the Bubble Unit, as well as highlighting the rules and regulations of the sterile environment.

Julie Guest, transplant nurse practitioner at the Great North Children’s Hospital, said: “The video is really important because kids now don’t read as much. They look at the pictures and what we’re finding is that sometimes they don’t fully understand what’s about to happen.

“We felt we needed something that crossed all the barriers – multi-racial, multi-lingual – and wanted something that gave an impression of where the families were going to in order to decrease anxiety.

“I’m really, really pleased with the video. It has been a whole multi-disciplinary team working towards it.

“The most important bit was that we had the children and parents involved with the video, so the kids designed the puppet and came up with the name.”

Experts such as play specialists, nurses, support workers, social workers and teachers have all been involved in the making of the important DVD.

North East film maker Tom Madge put the video together and got a friend to make the puppet as well as be the puppeteer.

The video has cost £10,000 to make and this has been co-funded by the Bubble Foundation and the North of England Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

It will be completed by October and will be sent out as a welcome package to parents and children who are about to enter the ward.

Holly Cheal, a paedeatric stem cell nurse practitioner, said: “The reaction has been really positive and I have been really happy with it.

“Parents who have already been through the transplant process have said they wished that the video had been available to them before their kids had go into transplant.”

Peter, from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, was diagnosed with the life-threatening condition aplastic anemia, a blood disorder in which the body’s bone marrow doesn’t make enough new blood cells.

He received a bone marrow transplant in November last year and spent five weeks in the Bubble Unit -– a sterile, isolation room. He is now doing well.

Peter said: “I was very excited when I was told that the name I’d said was chosen. I did not think that I would win.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer