During Paul O’Grady’s Little Heroes, we’re shining a spotlight on the wonderful staff across the hospital who help children get better and fulfil their potential. Dr Anna Martinez is a Paediatric Dermatology Consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and featured in episode three.
Leading the national EB service, Dr Martinez supervises a team of more than 15 specialists who treat complex conditions involving the skin. The conditions the team manage can often be so complicated that they can’t be looked after in a local hospital or secondary care. “We are very, very specialised here,” Dr Martinez explains.
One of the rare conditions that Dr Martinez treats is epidermolysis bullosa (EB). Dr Martinez describes the needs of children with EB as “very complex and complicated.
“Typically, children with EB have extensive skin fragility and blistering, but the severe types of EB also affect other surfaces, such as the front of the eye, the lining of the mouth and the oesophagus (swallowing tube), which causes problems with nutrition and feeding.
“Wounds tend to heal with contractures and scarring, particularly the hands. There are also knock-on effects because of such massive inflammation, including anaemia, osteoporosis and bone fractures.”
Moving into a new ward
Dr Martinez and the team treat patients in the recently renovated Pelican Ward. Each patient in this ward is provided with their own spacious private cubicle, play areas and an en-suite. Pelican Ward also has air-conditioned rooms, ensuring each child is as comfortable as possible, particularly during the hot summer months.
“Every family that has come to the new ward has been delighted by the improvement,” says Dr Martinez.
“Without doubt, the best part of my job are the children and families, getting to know them and trying to offer the best care possible.”
Eleven-year-old Fazeel, who features in the TV series, is a patient under Dr Martinez and the team. He has a type of EB that makes his skin extremely fragile. Even the slightest knock can cause his skin to blister and peel off.
“That means that Fazeel has many areas that are raw with open wounds,” says Dr Martinez. “Sometimes, children like Fazeel with this type of EB can have extensive areas of their body covered in wounds that are deep and very, very painful.”
Dr Martinez explains just how complex this form of EB can be: “The skin wounds are the tip of the iceberg, under the water you have all these other problems that are linked to having this type of EB.”
Fazeel receives treatment from Dr Martinez and the team on Pelican Ward. “One of GOSH's strengths is that not only are we one of the best places in the world looking after complex patients with skin problems; we're also a leading centre for clinical research looking at new and better treatments. Our clinical research facilities here are fantastic.
“I don’t think there are many other centres in the world that have our expertise. That makes GOSH a very special place.”
When asked about what it means for her team to be involved with Paul O’Grady’s Little Heroes, Dr Martinez said: “I think it’s fantastic to raise greater awareness about EB and to show the world a glimpse of what life is like. Fazeel’s braveness and brilliance shines through. We work in a wonderful hospital with inspiring patients and incredible staff who treat them.”