A COMMON theme among families and fundraisers taking on this Sunday’s OX5 Run is to thank the staff who helped their children battle devastating illnesses.

Any parent whose child has been cared for at Oxford Children’s Hospital will speak of the overwhelming gratitude and wonderment they have for the doctors, nurses, play specialists and other staff.

It is every parent's worst nightmare to get the devastating news that their child is seriously poorly, and putting on a brave face and staying strong is not usually an easy feat.

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This is when the dedication and compassion of staff at Oxford Children’s Hospital matters most and makes what is undoubtedly one of the scariest times of any family’s life that tiny bit easier.

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But it is a two-way street, and turning the subject on its head the staff at the Oxford Children’s Hospital would reflect their thanks back to its thousands of patients, their families and the local community for unrivalled support.

It is this ongoing support in fundraising and raising awareness of the hospital teams efforts that allows them to provide the vital care they do.

More than 1,000 people will once again take to the grounds of Blenheim Palace this weekend to take on the OX5 Run for the children’s hospital, organised by the Oxford Mail.

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Cheering them on will be children’s hospital specialist matron Zoe Pooley who has been in the role for the past three years.

Having taken on the OX5 about two years ago herself, she said: “The support of people doing the OX5 is great, people go to great lengths to take on the course and it's not an easy one.

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“It is very up and down, and we do recognise the very personal effort people commit to even do the run.

“Ultimately the money raised by everyone involved just makes huge improvements to what we can provide to sick children and their families.

“Every little bit makes a difference whether it is wall art, stickers, books or toys, training or equipment, it is all vital to our care.”

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Ms Pooley has been with the hospital for almost three decades having started in the general medicine ward in 1992, where she found a love for working with children.

The nurse, from Abingdon, went on to work 15 years in the adolescent ward - now named Meanie’s Ward - before spending the past three years as a specialist matron for the children’s hospital.

In that time the OX5 Run, sponsored by Allen Associates, has been going for 16 years and in total raised more than £1 million for Oxford Children’s Hospital Charity.

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Ms Pooley said: “The OX5 has done amazing things back to the original project to even build the children’s hospital which was the best thing ever, and so important.

“But also down to funding the more subtle aspects such as art work and stickers which are funky and eye-catching to help distract children who are having treatments.”

The matron, who is one of a team of matrons at the children’s hospital, has seen how the funds raised and swathes of support have helped develop and expand services at Oxford Children’s Hospital over the years.

Funds from the five-mile fundraiser which returns for its 17th year on Sunday have provided vital support and training, as well as paid for vital equipment to help with medical care.

Ms Pooley said two things have stood out for her over her career at the Children’s Hospital and how it has changed thanks to the support of local families.

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She said: “One big thing has been the monitoring equipment which is almost installed.

"That has been terrific, to have up-to-date monitoring equipment to help us keep an eye on children’s heart rates, blood pressure, etc.

“Before, we didn’t have many of these machines and they were just outdated, showing their age and becoming unreliable.”

Ms Pooley added: “Also the ceiling artwork and decorations for when you may have a child laying down for a blood test or similar and they can be used as a distraction.

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“These are all the sort of things that these funds support extra to the NHS stuff, the fun stuff that may seem like trivial play things but it all means way more than that.

“For example we have just brought dolls specially created to have tubes fitted, so children are able to understand [medical processes] and are aware of what is happening. So much about looking after children is about the preparation.”

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OX5 funds have also helped with specialised training for various staff included courses such as tube feeding for young patients, as well as contributing to the current building of a 62-bedroom Ronald McDonald house for parents to stay close to their poorly children.

Ms Pooley said: “If you have a nice environment everyone is more at ease both staff and patients, and it creates this feeling of calm right from the beginning.”

Teams of staff from the children’s hospital will also be taking on the OX5 Run and, with just days left to go, the wards are rife with talk of various fancy dress costume ideas.

They will walk, jog or run the five-mile course to help raise as much money as possible for Oxford Children’s Hospital Charity.

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People can still sign up to run before midnight tonight.

Ms Pooley added: “The atmosphere at an OX5 event is just immeasurable, it is such a great experience to see all the families come together with a shared motivation to take it on.

“The runners, the supporters, the sponsors, the JACK FM guys fundraising and the Oxford Mail photographer going round getting cheesy pictures - it's all amazing.

“The focus is on the children and that is what everyone is there for to help support the care for the county’s youngsters and most poorly patients.”

For more details or to sign up go to ox5run.co.uk