In April 2016, when Luke was 12 years old, he began to have severe headaches. Up until this point, he had been a fit and healthy young boy who loved playing cricket and golf and his headaches were completely out of the blue and unexpected. Over the Easter holidays they became worse and so we visited our local One Life Medical Centre to see what was wrong. The day after our visit Luke hadn’t started to feel any better and one of his eyes was beginning to look strangely droopy, so he was admitted to North Tees hospital.
I spent a restless night beside his bed and by the next morning he was really pale and his eye was alarmingly swollen. An urgent C.T. scan revealed that Luke's sinuses were filled with pus from severe sinusitis (we had no idea he had sinusitis - he had never suffered from it) and an abscess in Luke’s forehead was pressing on his brain. We were told we would be going to The Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle by ambulance, so I called Luke’s Dad, Anthony, who rushed home to pack some clothes for us all and followed us in the car to RVI.
I had no idea what we would do that night if Luke was admitted, but our needs were the least of my concerns as we sped along with blue lights flashing. Luke said that he was pretty out of it, but remembers myself and the nurse who travelled in the ambulance with us feeling sick because we were going so fast.
When we arrived, the RVI the Accident and Emergency Department was packed – I remember being rushed in to the resuscitation room and one lady waiting outside looking at Luke and saying “urgh!” – his eye was so swollen. Luke was rushed into surgery straight away to remove the pus and relieve the pressure and Anthony and I were given a room in A&E to try and get a little sleep. Luke was in surgery for three and a half hours and then we were taken to see him on the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in the Great North Children’s Hospital at RVI. We spent an anxious night there and the next day we were told there was a room for us in Crawford House.
We had heard of Crawford House previously because one of my colleagues had stayed here when her baby was ill and she had told me all about this amazing charity called The Sick Children’s Trust – and now we needed their help ourselves.
Linsey, the Assistant House Manager, met us at Crawford House and showed us around – to be honest, our heads were spinning and we didn’t take much in at first. We were still running on adrenaline, but as the day went on and tiredness kicked in we were so relieved that we didn’t have to drive home. We took turns, one of us would sit with Luke while the other slept at the house. At various times consultants and doctors would come to see Luke, he was being cared for by four separate teams, so there were a lot of people and lots of information to take in. We wanted to be there when they came, so Crawford House was invaluable to us because if the doctors arrived on the ward when we were resting, we could get back there very quickly. It was vitally important that we made decisions as a family, including Luke when he was able to.
A week after Luke’s surgery we were told that the abscess had returned, and in addition he had another pocket of pus on the opposite side of his head. The Doctors assured us that the antibiotics they had prescribed would clear it up. After 17 days at RVI we were sent home, but a week later Luke’s pain was so bad we went to A&E and he was re-admitted. Once again surgeons operated to drain the pus and we spent a night on the sofa in PICU before we called on Crawford House for a comfy bed for the next five days.
Luke says: “I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember feeling frightened and not wanting Mum and Dad to leave me. PICU can be a scary place; I couldn’t see, so I didn’t always know if anyone was close by and if I needed something it was so nice to know my mum and dad were there. You don’t realise how scary it is not being able to see.”
“It was really great when my grandparents came to visit, they would bring a nice meal and while mum and dad ate theirs in Crawford House, they would sit with me. They brought me treats like smoked salmon!”
We honestly don’t know how we would have coped without Crawford House – they really looked after all of us. All the staff were lovely to our family, always making an effort to say “hello” and asking about Luke's progress. We knew that they were there if we needed them and they were very respectful if we did not want to talk or were having a bad day; sometimes we really appreciated just a simple "hello" as we were very upset and did not want to talk to anyone. As soon as Luke was able to walk he came across to Crawford House with us, it was just far enough for him to go because he was a bit unsteady.
I truly believe knowing we were so close helped him to recover faster and we often call in when we are at RVI for outpatient appointments, just to say hello and thank everyone again – we will always be grateful to The Sick Children’s Trust.
Sue Allison, Luke’s Mum