Hospital fit for a princess's visit and a vital role at university in Shropshire visit

[gallery] It's not every day a princess comes to check on your progress in hospital.

Hospital fit for a princess's visit and a vital role at university in Shropshire visit

That is what happened to 14-year-old Sophie McKevitt, who hosted a visit from Princess Anne while being treated as a day patient.

The Princess Royal visited Shropshire to open the new Women and Children's Unit at the hospital that bears her name.

The Princess Royal at Harper Adams

It was a perfect day for this princess, writes Shirley Tart. Dogs and horses in the morning and newborn babies in the afternoon.

The Princess Royal

is a county favourite and always gets a special welcome. She arrived in Edgmond by helicopter sporting a smart winter-blue coat, cosy scarf and boots.

With three plaque unveilings during the day – the first one accompanied by the refreshingly normal words "there you go then" – Princess Anne smiled her way through a pretty tiring day without apparently flagging.

She was fascinated by the hydrotherapy suite in the new Veterinary Services Centre at Harper Adams and particularly, at the dogs demonstrating it.While outside, the princess's interest was taken by a superb pair of horses showing off treatments for muscle problems.

Then it was on to the Princess Royal Hospital where the new Women and Children's Centre awaited its formal blessing.

Newborn babies were greeted and chuckled over as the princess heard how wonderful the new centre was. She agreed and paid fulsome tribute to the inspiration and the reality of it all.

Lord Lieutenant Sir Algernon Heber-Percy and his wife, Lady Jane Heber-Percy were on hand along with lady-in-waiting Rowena Fielden and representatives of civic life.

But once again it was the royal favourite who lifted the spirits of hundreds of local folk.

She was taken on a tour of the new £28 million building at the PRH in Telford, and met patients and their families as well as the staff and nurses on all the different wards.

And she was full of praise for the care staff give to patients, describing he new centre as a "fantastic facility".

It was the third time the princess has visited the PRH, following the official opening of the hospital in 1990 and the opening of the Paul Brown Day Hospital in 1998.

Cathy Smith, Women and Children's Care Group Director and Head of Midwifery, said the royal visit was the highlight of her career.

"It has been a really exciting day, we spent most of the morning making sure everything was ready for the Princess's visit," she said. "It was great to see so many people coming out to see her, especially the patients and families.

"It really has been a once in a career opportunity having the Princess Royal, and I don't suppose I will see have the honour and privilege of meeting her again so it was very special."

As well as visiting the hospital, the Princess also stopped by Harper Adams University, in Newport, where she opened the new Veterinary Services Centre and the Jean Jackson Entomology Building.

The Princess Royal was full of praise for the work of staff at both Harper Adams University and the Princess Royal Hospital, which bears her name.

The vice chancellor of Harper Adams, Dr David Llewellyn, welcomed the royal visitor – who is also Chancellor of the university – and said she played an important part in life at the institution.

In turn, and with the new veterinary and entomology sections in mind, the Princess paid tribute to all who had inspired the latest additions.

After seeing Haggis the border terrier demonstrating the canine hydrotherapy pool, she said: "It all creates a level of interest, of both theory and practice and helps everyone's confidence."

Members of the Jean Jackson Trust, which funded the Entomology Laboratories, were on hand to explain the bequest made by the trust in memory of Miss Jackson, who was a keen conservationist and wanted the work to carry on.

The existing Veterinary Nursing building was recently extended to include treatment rooms, the canine hydrotherapy suite and external exercise/assessment facilities for canine and equine cases.

The entomology laboratories were formed by converting an existing building, a project kick-started by a generous donation of £200,000 from the Jean Jackson Trust.

Praising the new facility, which now offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses, the Princess said: "It is slightly worrying to know there are so few entomologists so congratulations on this move which is going to make such a difference."

Dr Llewellyn said: "The university offers a wide range of subjects beyond agriculture, so it was good to be able to show our Chancellor two new facilities related to our courses in veterinary science and entomology.

"These developments further underline our commitment to provide an outstanding educational experience for our students, as well as the resources required for ground-breaking research.

"The Chancellor was also able to meet some of our staff and students, including Stephanie Gunn, who was a member of the GB squad that won the world student riding championships recently held in Florida, and they greatly enjoyed the opportunity to speak to Her Royal Highness.

"It is always a pleasure to welcome the Chancellor to the university and we greatly value her support and her interest in our work."

One student, Willy Ramirez Ortiz, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, said it was great to meet Her Royal Highness.

"It was very exciting to have the Princess visit the university as this doesn't happen in my country, and I really think the new facilities will help with our studies," he said.

His friend, and fellow student, Aidan Thomas, 21, added: "It was really exciting meeting the Princess. She was very nice."

The Princess took her time to go round all the different tables, meeting students, governors and lecturers, before signing the visitors' book and then having some lunch.

She then flew by helicopter over to the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford to meet and greet staff and patients there.

The Princess Royal is shown around the Women and Children's Centre at the Princess Royal Hospital, Telford

She met patients in the children's ward and, at the end of the visit, one of them, Sophie McKevitt, 14, who was in as a day patient, presented the royal visitor with flowers. Sophie said: "She was lovely and asked me how my treatment was going." The Princess also met Maxwell Collier, born on Monday weighing 7lb 3oz. And little Maxwell is set to begin life on a new continent because he is moving to Australia in April with mum and dad Ian and Jess Collier and sister Mia, three.

While for baby George Stevens in the neo-natal unit, this Sunday is set to be a massive milestone – all being well he is going home to Shawbury with mum and dad Sarah and Paul. Sarah said: "He was 10 weeks premature but is coming along really well so we are really hoping now."

The Princess made one little boy's day, who could not believe he met a real princess.

Khaleel Khan, 10, who is being treated for leukaemia, said the only princesses he had met before were his two sisters. But the Telford youngster almost did not meet Her Royal Highness as he thought he would be too nervous.

Khaleel's mother, Kelly Khan, said it meant so much to her that her son was able to meet the Princess as he has been so brave since he was diagnosed in July.

Joseph Dowle, 18, who is a student at Ysgol Cedewain in Newtown Powys, was invited to the hospital after he won a competition to install a golden bolt into the centre.

The princess observes a clinical skills class at Harper Adams, led by veterinary nursing teaching assistant Lucy Evans, left.

"It was an honour and a privilege to be invited here for the royal visit," he said. "All my family and friends are so proud that I got to meet and speak to Princess Anne.

She asked me what I was studying and what I did to be invited to the hospital for her visit. She was lovely and spoke to everyone she met." Joseph was able to bring someone with him for the visit and he chose his friend, Aaron Wilkins, 17, who said it was very exciting to meet her.

The Princess, who was on her third visit to the hospital, said: "This marks the progress of time. It is 25 years since I first came and I don't underestimate for a second the work it has taken to create this facility. But it also demonstrates that you have adapted and made the best of what modern technology has to offer."

She joked that such a facility was needed because of the "occupational hazard" of being female and said the centre would add to the confidence of women raising their children.

"Confidence is a very fragile commodity, but with the right support and facilities, that confidence can stay with you," she said.

Kate Shaw, programme manager for the Shropshire Women and Children's Centre development, added: "Yesterday's opening is a real celebration of all the hard work and commitment in the creation of the Women and Children's Centre and delivery of the changes to women and children's services.

"It was a real honour to meet the Princess Royal and the time she gave will always be remembered."

Unveiling the official plaque, the royal guest of honour said: "The facilities help everyone's confidence and I'm sure the centre will really make a difference. But remember, you are not really patients, whatever the doctors say," she added with a twinkle.

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