Formal travels for Jennifer

Jennifer Smyth with her friends.
Jennifer Smyth with her friends.

It’s not every day that a school formal is held in a hospital, but that’s exactly what kind hearted medical staff and teachers made happen for a Derry teenager who suffered a devastating injury following a recent gymnastics accident.

The parents of 16-year-old Jennifer Smyth, from Eglinton, have praised NHS staff at Musgrave Park Hospital, where their daughter is being treated after sustaining a broken neck in September.

Jennifer, a pupil at Limavady Grammar School, had been due to attend her school formal in the Everglades in November, having bought her dress months before her accident. While it had been hoped she would be discharged from hospital temporarily to attend her formal, consultants and specialists at the specialist unit where she is a patient then felt the journey would be too tiring.

“It was a real blow for Jennifer,” said her mother, Pamela.

“As a family we had met with all the relevant medical people the Wednesday before the formal and at that same meeting it was suggested that it was possible that there would be very little further progress in Jennifer’s condition, so it was a double blow.

“Jennifer attends the school in the Children’s Ward at Musgrave Park and teachers there instantly decided they wanted to do something so that she didn’t miss out on her formal experience. We suggested they check with Jennifer herself about organising something and she was just buzzing. She’d made such an impact on them and I think they were just really taken with her personality. They took it from there and rallied into action.”

In co operation with teachers at Limavady grammar a mini bus was arranged to transport ten of Jennifer’s friends, along with the school’s Vice Principal to the classroom of the school in Musgrave Park Hospital which, for one night only, became a formal venue.

“It was wonderful,” says Pamela. “There was dimmed lighting, music chosen by Jennifer, hospital screens were draped with sheets and fairy lights and Jennifer got to wear that dress we’d bought all those months ago. And it was only possible because of the wonderful staff at Musgrave Park who even brought in a hairdresser and make up artist. We can’t thank everyone who was involved enough. The NHS staff there do wonderful work and we are actually seeing Jennifer show small signs towards progress.”