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Get well Soon

Get Well Soon (Credit: Kindle Entertainment Ltd/BBC/Kat Woolfe)

Dr Ranj, can you give us a quick overview of Get Well Soon?
Get Well Soon is a unique pre-school show based on children’s experiences of going to the doctor and exploring how the body works in sickness and in health. Through the eyes of five loveable puppet characters that come in to visit the doctor (that’s me!), the audience get a chance to see the medical world as a safe and stimulating environment full of music, laughter and games – not horrible symptoms or uncomfortable tests and treatments!

The main aim is to educate and enlighten children about health and medical issues by exploring common childhood complaints and illnesses in a fun and entertaining way. At the same time, the series hopes to allay fears and provide positive health-related messages to the audience (which includes their parents).

Get Well Soon is a place where kids learn how to be happy and healthy!

Get Well Soon covers a range of health issues and concerns but in a humorous way - how do you manage to make people being ill funny?
It’s all about how you present the information – ‘illness’ doesn’t always have to be awful and is something we all go through. Fortunately, many childhood illnesses are not serious, but they can still be frightening for children and their parents. By learning about why they feel the way they do in a non-threatening way, children can better understand and cope with their conditions – be they short or long-term. They may also learn about what they can do to prevent it in the first place!

Most things can be broken down and presented in a way that keeps kids entertained and educates them at the same time. Using a combination of humour, play and music helps to captivate the imagination and encourage children to take an active interest in their health and wellbeing.

Can you tell me about some of the other characters who feature in Get Well Soon?
The show is based in a surgery that is run by myself and Nurse Morag – my lovely and extremely knowledgeable counterpart. We also have five fantastic and very personable puppet characters (Deep, Kiwa, Riz, Jobi and Petal) who come in with various problems. Each character has their own personality and quirks that real children can relate to: Deep’s shy and bashful nature, Riz’s inquisitive mind, Kiwa’s charming confidence, Jobi’s boisterous and adventurous ways, and Petal’s sweet demeanour.

The consultation inevitably brings up questions about the ‘what’s’ and the ‘why’s’ of the human body and this is where Nurse Morag comes in. She visits children around the country (the ‘Healthy Helpers’) and engages them in games and activities to help simplify and explain quite tricky medical concepts.

In the end, our puppet friend goes home with a plan, treatment or satisfied curiosity.

Who do you think the series will appeal to?
The show is aimed at a predominately pre-school audience (age 3-6 years), but is funny on so many levels that older children and adults will undoubtedly enjoy it too. The characters are extremely loveable and relatable, the script is thoroughly entertaining, and the music and songs are so catchy! Children and adults will come away with lots of positive messages and some really useful health-related information (not to mention some great musical earworms).

Visiting a doctor can seem like a big thing to a small person, what advice would you give to a young child who is nervous/worried about going to the doctors?
Every child has a fear that going to the doctor will mean that someone is going to do something unpleasant. Fortunately, this isn’t the case most of the time – and we spend most of the time convincing them so!

I always say: don’t be scared! We are all nice people and here to help you feel better. Feel free to ask lots of questions and find out what we are doing and why. Remember that we sometimes have to do things that aren’t very nice, but we only do them because we have to! In the end, you’ll see that it wasn’t as bad as you thought and it’s all for the best. Be brave and you might even get special sticker as a reward!

You are a fully qualified paediatrician - what attracted you to working in children's TV?
I have always had an interest in health promotion in the media and have been involved in various projects for TV, radio and online.

Get Well Soon has given me the opportunity to use my medical training and experience in a fun way with the people I work with best – kids! It is educational and informative without being too ‘classroom’.

Working with puppets has been the best part - I have never had so much fun at ‘work’!

The show covers such a variety of medical subjects - can you give us some examples?
The show covers a wide range of medical issues and topics, ranging from hiccups to chicken pox, and constipation to broken bones. It even deals with subjects like immunization and diabetes in a positive and empowering way – something that has never been done before in children’s TV, and something that I am extremely proud of!

Do you still work in medicine now that you've finished filming Get Well Soon? Which do you prefer – medicine or the TV work?I have gone back to my ‘day job’ again – working in a busy hospital in Kent – which involves looking after anything from premature babies to young adults. It’s quite tricky fitting the media stuff in, so I now do my medical work part-time to give me enough time to do both. It’s great fun doing TV work as I get to do some really cool things and work with some amazing people, but I could never give up being a ‘real’ doctor. I simply like it too much!

What made you want to become a doctor?
I guess I’m powered by a desire to fix things. I have always been fascinated by the way things work and fixing them when they break. In fact, my parents stopped buying me toys as a kid because I would just take them apart in my quest to find out what made them tick. As I grew up I became more and more interested in the sciences, and that coupled with my love of helping people, meant that becoming a doctor was a natural (albeit a labour-intensive) choice!

Do you enjoy working with children?
The best thing about working with kids in the healthcare setting is that they have a remarkable ability to deal with and overcome illness. It is hard work but extremely fulfilling – not to mention funny! All it takes is for a toddler to break wind in the middle of a ward round to bring a smile upon even the sternest consultant’s face! Kids also bring out the best in people and it’s not uncommon to see people go the extra mile (or several) for their patients – a great testament to our NHS.

The medicine in itself is extremely varied and interesting so you will never get bored. Plus you get to meet and deal with people from various age groups and backgrounds so your approach has to be just as dynamic as your patients! Unfortunately, there is a very sad and serious side to it and you can’t help but get emotionally involved in your job at times, but that’s part of being human and what makes doctors even better.

Working with kids in TV is fun, but you have to know how to keep them interested and get them to be ‘part of the process’ that you are trying to achieve. It’s not uncommon to have to shoot scenes more than once, which is fine for an adult, but can be frustrating for a five-year-old! An abundant supply of games, jokes and tricks goes a really long way!

Get Well Soon is shown on Cbeebies from 1st October 2012

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