There was a knock at the door. Standing there was a police officer. He said that our son had been involved in a serious accident and was at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle upon Tyne – an hour away from our home in Darlington.
Shock ran through my body. I didn’t know how to react or what to do. I was confused, scared and had no idea what to expect.
The police kindly took me and James’ dad, Louis, to the hospital and on arrival we found out that James had been in a motorbike accident in which the bike caught fire. James needed an operation on his head as he had a bleed to the brain. He would also need skin grafts for the burns, but they couldn’t give us any indication as to how he would be after. He would be in intensive care and heavily sedated and we were to expect that he’d be in hospital for a long time.
We didn’t want to leave his side. Our 15 year old son was critically injured and we just wanted to make sure that he knew he wasn’t alone. Looking at the clock in the family room at the hospital, it seemed like the hands barely moved as we waited for news on how his brain operation went.
As morning broke, we were approached by a lady called Emily. She was the Assistant House Manager at a place called Crawford House which is free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation run by The Sick Children’s Trust. She told us that there was a room for us, ready and waiting, where we could get some sleep before James’ next operation to put a plate in the top of his right leg.
Louis and I were very grateful for the offer but we didn’t want to bother anybody so we said we were fine and would wait in the family room. Emily encouraged us to take a walk to Crawford House and once we stepped inside, relief overcame us.
Over the next nine weeks, Crawford House really did become a ‘Home from Home’ for us. Mostly it was me and James’ dad who stayed there, with James’ younger brother Jake coming to stay on the weekends. When Louis had to go back to work, my Mum would come and stay with me. To have that flexibility meant so much to me. I didn’t want to leave James’ side, but I also needed support too. And Crawford House made that possible.
James had lots of visitors when he was at RVI, and Crawford House was a place we could go with them after being on the wards. There was so much more privacy there where we could have a chat over tea and biscuits which is what we really needed at times.
As James got stronger, we looked forward to getting him home. The first small step but huge milestone was getting James out of the hospital for a couple of hours. He asked to go over to Crawford House as he was very curious as to what it was like and to see where we were staying.
We showed James around Crawford House and to our bedroom. When we opened the door to our room, James spotted the bed and asked if he could lie down on it. He said it had been so long since he’d been able to lie in a normal bed and that it just looked so comfy. And as soon as he lay down, he exclaimed ‘Oh, a real bed!’
We spent a lot of time in Crawford House from that moment, all of us together and with James’ grandparents. It was so nice to bring James over at dinner time so that we could all eat together and be as we would be at home.
James’ recovery has gone really well. Since leaving RVI he has only been in hospital once for more skin grafts. And we’re really pleased with how his recovery is going.
Every person’s story is different, so James and I made the decision that it was important to share his story so that another family in a similar situation knows they’re not alone and they will get through it. Especially when there is fantastic support out there from charities such as The Sick Children’s Trust.
Claire Jenkinson, James’ Mum.