A devoted grandad has decided to push himself out of his comfort zone and connect with as many people as possible to raise money for the charity that provided his daughter’s family with ongoing free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation whilst his granddaughter was in hospital.
Martyn Large, 42, who lives in Annan, is dreaming up at least a hundred challenges that will make up his 15 month long, ‘Martyn’s Random Event’. These include everything from attending a Dizzee Rascal concert, to planning a skydive, taking on the longest zipwire in Europe, and completing the perilous Via Farrata cliff edge walk at Honister Slate Mine. He has already completed The Great North Run for The Sick Children’s Trust, but hopes to approach each new event with a different friend or family member, receiving a donation from them for the charity, as well as publicly fundraising through his Virgin Money Giving page.
Martyn’s granddaughter, Ellie, was just six weeks old when doctors diagnosed her with a congenital heart condition. They broke the devastating news to her distraught parents, Cara, 25 and Louis, 27, that Ellie had hypoplastic right heart syndrome – a rare condition in which the right side of the heart hasn’t developed properly and so cannot function effectively. Mum, Cara, who was told to take her daughter straight to hospital when she attended a routine six week check-up at her local GP surgery, says:
“When we first arrived at the Great North Children’s Hospital they carried out tests and decided to consult with the team at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. I was with my mum and panic started to set in. I didn't really know what was going on anymore. Within a few hours in the middle of the night we were rushed to Freeman Hospital by ambulance, being told there was something wrong with Ellie's heart. Once we arrived, the cardiologist met us and performed an echocardiogram, which is when we found out about Ellie’s condition.
“The initial prognosis was grim, palliative care was described to us as unfortunately they didn't think there was much they could do to help us, but they could try and make her as comfortable as possible. Luckily the next day a scan showed a potential route via surgery, but they wanted Ellie to get stronger for that to happen as at that point she was very unstable.
“Things didn't really go to plan and on our second day at Freeman Hospital, Ellie took a major turn for the worse and there was no option but to rush her into surgery. I didn't even really get to say goodbye to her properly – it was a quick kiss on the forehead as they rushed her down the corridor for her first open heart surgery. I didn’t know if I would see her again.”
It was at this point that Cara and Louis heard about The Sick Children’s Trust. They were given a room at Scott House, free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation, just minutes from the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and Ellie’s hospital bedside. Cara continues:
“When I was told I couldn’t stay in PICU with Ellie panic sunk in, as I couldn't drive and didn't know how I would stay with her. But The Sick Children’s Trust immediately offered us a room at Scott House. I can’t describe in words how eternally grateful we are to such a fantastic cause. Ellie spent the bulk of her first year in hospital and Scott House allowed both myself and Louis to be as close to her as possible the entire time.
“It also created a home away from home for Ellie’s older sister Izzy, three, who could come and visit us and Ellie, but not always be stuck in a hospital room. She absolutely loved the playroom at Scott House and it gave us a much-needed place to relax and get a good night’s sleep and a quick shower whenever we wanted. We've stayed there numerous times over the past few years and it’s been a godsend every time. The staff are absolutely amazing, especially the manager Andrew. Even when we are at clinic and walk past him in the corridor he will always stop to ask how Ellie is doing.”
Cara’s father, Martyn, who wants to contribute to the family’s target of raising £10,000 by the end of 2018, plans to raise £2018 himself by the end of 2018, by organising the random challenges. Martyn, General Sales Manager at Mercedes-Benz of Carlisle, says:
“Unfortunately due to Ellie's conditions, her treatment still is classed as palliative. Hopefully the future is not too grim, with either more open heart surgeries to try and improve her circulation or possibly a heart transplant. She will always have regular trips to hospital and so far Ellie has had four open heart surgeries, as well as surgeries and procedures for her additional gastro-intestinal and renal issues.
“Cara and Louis are amazing parents to Ellie and Izzy. Considering everything she has been through, Ellie is always smiling and loves life. Whenever I visit I see her cheeky personality developing and I could not be more proud of my daughter, which is why I want to do everything I can for the charity that has supported her, Louis, Izzy and Ellie.”
The Sick Children’s Trust runs ten free ‘Homes from Home’ across the country supporting around 4,000 families with seriously ill children in hospital every year. Andrew Leadbitter, Scott House Manager, says:
“It means so much to us when families like Ellie’s fundraise to say thanks for keeping them together. It costs the charity £30 to support a family for a night in one of our ten ‘Homes from Home’ across the country.
“When a child is seriously ill, it’s vital that their loved ones are close by, and our ‘Homes from Home’ mean that families – like Ellie’s – can be there for their children. But as a charity we rely solely on voluntary donations, so fundraising campaigns, like the challenges Martyn has set himself, will really make a difference.”
To get behind The Sick Children’s Trust and sponsor Martyn through his challenges please visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=MartynLarge&pageUrl=4