The parents of a little boy who was born weighing just 860grams are supporting The Sick Children’s Trust’s first ever Christmas appeal as thanks for giving them a ‘Home from Home’ when their son was seriously ill in hospital.
Nicola Findlater and Paul Hiles, from Southend-on-Sea, were supported by The Sick Children’s Trust on two occasions with free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation earlier this year when their son, Edward (now eight months old) had a life-threatening condition and needed specialist treatment miles away from home. The couple are now supporting the charity’s first ever Christmas appeal which aims to raise £13,140 – enough to run its ten ‘Homes from Home’ over the festive period. Mum Nicola says:
“When Edward was born, the doctors immediately rushed him to intensive care, but because I still needed treatment and care myself, I was unable to see him for the first 24 hours of his life. When I was eventually able to see Edward, I couldn’t even touch him. He was too small and too poorly so had to remain in his incubator continuously. But when he was four days old the hospital team finally allowed Paul and I to open the porthole of the incubator and have our first skin-to-skin contact with our baby. After seven days in intensive care, Edward moved to the special care team in the premature baby unit and three days later, Paul and I were allowed to hold him for the first time.
“When Edward was 19 days old, Paul and I received a phone call from the hospital to say that he was really quite unwell. He had a swollen tummy and the doctors suspected he had necrotising enterocolitis, a life-threatening condition where the tissue in the intestine becomes inflamed and starts to die. We were told he needed to be transferred to The Royal London Children’s Hospital immediately and at 2am he was rushed there by blue lights. I went with Edward in the ambulance, and Paul followed us behind.
“It was an agonising journey. Every minute felt like an hour. While the medical team continued to check on Edward every few minutes, all I could think about was just how tiny he really was. And then it hit me. We might lose him. Our son could die.
“That night, we slept in hospital chairs next to Edward’s incubator. I couldn’t bear to leave him. I was so afraid that he might die if I left his side. It was a sleepless night and as morning broke I received a call which meant I didn’t have to sleep slumped in that chair anymore. The call was from Alan, who managed a place called Stevenson House, run by The Sick Children’s Trust. He’d called to let me know there was a room for myself and Paul, somewhere we could stay and still be close to Edward, so I would never be more than a few minutes from my son.”
The Sick Children’s Trust runs ten ‘Homes from Home’ across the country supporting families with seriously ill children in hospital. Stevenson House is one of three ‘Homes from Home’ in London. Nicola continues:
“Stevenson House really was like a home and we were amazed that we were able to stay for as long as it took Edward to recover. There was no pressure and we felt a sense of calm and reassurance just being there. When Edward was transferred to The Royal London Children's Hospital we’d looked at accommodation around the hospital but it was just too expensive. As was travelling back and forth to hospital from our home. Our only option would have been to call the hospital every day to check on Edward’s progress and then visit him at weekends. It would have been absolutely horrendous to be torn away from our baby who needed us to be there for him. But because of Stevenson House we didn’t have to make that decision.
“Stevenson House was an absolute godsend in a time of complete worry, despair and distress, when we felt completely hopeless and lost. It gave us somewhere we felt reassured and comforted, somewhere we could look after ourselves and therefore completely focus on looking after Edward. I honestly don’t know how we would have coped. We could not have got through such a traumatic time without The Sick Children’s Trust.
“Edward is back at home and progressing at a steady rate – he weighs nearly 12lbs! We’re now very much looking forward to Christmas as this will be our first. We’re planning to spend some quality time together and appreciate what we have got after what has been such a stressful year.”
The Sick Children’s Trust is a national charity which supports around 4,000 families every year. The charity relies entirely on voluntary donations to keep its ten ‘Homes from Home’ running, providing vital support to families with children undergoing lifesaving treatment in hospital. This Christmas it expects that every room in every house will be full with families, caring for some of the UK’s sickest children. The Christmas appeal aims to raise £13,140, enough to run its ten ‘Homes from Home’, providing essential emotional and practical support to families in need. Jane Featherstone, CEO at The Sick Children’s Trust says:
“No child should wake up on Christmas morning without their family around them. But this Christmas, many families with a critically ill child in a specialist hospital will face a long journey to be at their child’s side.
“A donation of £30 will give a family a place to stay in one of our ‘Homes from Home’, just moments from their sick child. It costs The Sick Children’s Trust £13,140 to run our ten ‘Homes from Home’ across the country over the Christmas period, keeping families together at one of the most important times of the year. Your donation can make this possible.”
To keep a family together this Christmas, please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/sickchildrenstrust/alliwantforxmas.
To watch the Christmas appeal film, visit: https://youtu.be/qpgKkZuPWmc.
For more information on The Sick Children’s Trust and for other ways to donate, please visit http://www.sickchildrenstrust.org/Donate/.