Princess Eugenie (right) visits the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London
When she was just 12 years old, Princess Eugenie
received alarming news: that an operation was needed to correct a curvature in her spine.
Diagnosed with scoliosis, the young royal had to undergo an eight-hour procedure, later spending three days recuperating in intensive care before eventually making a full recovery.
On Wednesday, Eugenie, now 24 and the seventh in line to the British throne, returned to the London clinic that treated her and spoke about the anxieties faced by children when they have to be hospitalized.
's cousin – who is the daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah, the Duke and Duchess of York – took time out from herjob at an auction house in New York to visit the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and open the new Children's High Dependency Unit, which is expected to take in over 400 sick children a year.
It was a rare official appearance by Eugenie, who, along with her sister, Princess Beatrice, seldom undertakes formal royal duties now that they're working full-time.
At the hospital, Eugenie told supporters and staff that the facility "will greatly enhance the care and experience of the hospital's young patients and their families."
"Going into the hospital is nerve-racking for any child," she explained. "I can still vividly remember how nervous I felt in the days and weeks leading up to my operation. Anything that can be done to ease these worries and make the environment better for patients is to be welcomed."
As patron of the effort to fund the hospital's redevelopment, Eugenie also announced the construction of a new hospital facility named after her: the Princess Eugenie House, which will provide living quarters to families of children being treated at the hospital, and for which the princess raised $16,000 in funding.
Eugenie's visit has already had a positive impact on those she wants to help: According to hospital staffer Betty Wynne, who helps oversee the hospital's High Dependency Unit, the princess's appearance had caused great "excitement" among patients and "lifted the children's spirits."