Leicester Tigers players lifted patients’ spirits and said thank you to the fantastic doctors and nurses at Leicester’s hospitals on their traditional Christmas visit.
Luke Hamilton, Logovi’i Mulipola, Dom Ryan and Manu Tuilagi visited Glenfield Hospital, where the children’s heart surgery unit was recently saved from closure after a long campaign, which was backed by the Tigers.
The hospital has also been in the news this week after Vanellope Hope Wilkins, who was born with her heart outside her body, became the first baby in the UK to survive. She has had three operations to place her heart back in her chest.
She was one of a number of children and their families that the boys visited, with Mulipola causing quite a stir for his resemblance to the character Maui in the Disney film Moana.
“It’s nice to be able to spread some cheer but, for us it’s actually inspiring. You look at life differently and from a different perspective.
“The patients in here have it much more difficult than us and so any way we can cheer them up is positive.”
Elizabeth Aryeetey, deputy head of nursing at Glenfield Hospital, said: “I know all of our patients and staff really appreciate the time out that the players take.
“We know what busy schedules these guys have but actually seeing them here and the level of interest they take in the patients, especially the kids, is just really great. It’s great for the morale of our staff too and gets everybody in the mood for Christmas.
“To see tears in the eyes of these great, muscular men as they are seeing the fragility of some of the babies is quite heart-warming.
“I think anything that is good for the wellbeing of our patients or their parents is good. The parents are obviously under a huge amount of stress and anything that takes their mind of that gives them another thing to think about for the day is just brilliant.”
Tigers players also visited Leicester Royal Infirmary, opposite Welford Road stadium. They included Tatafu Polota-Nau on his first public engagement since arriving in Leicester at the start of the week.
Polota-Nau joined fellow Australia international Matt Toomua, winger Jonah Holmes and back-rower Valentino Mapapalangi on the visit.
Toomua said: “It is a pleasure to be able to meet some really brave children and adults who are in difficult situations.
"Christmas is a special time for everyone, especially children. Many of the players have young families of their own, so these visits are very poignant.
“We hope that we can help bring some festive cheer to children who are facing Christmas in our local hospitals.
“It’s nice to speak to some of the parents whose children have been in for a while and break it up for them and it helps you appreciate the work that the doctors and nurses do.”