Brave Hornchurch mum faces her fears with family skydive for The Sick Children's Trust

Accompanied by her dad Guy, brother Edward and sister-in-law Nichola, 32-year-old Mary Clark will bravely face her fears on 11 May by stepping out of a plane at 10,000 feet to raise funds for our 'Homes from Home'

A mum from Hornchurch with a fear of heights is taking on a skydive to raise money for The Sick Children’s Trust after we provided support while her baby son received life-saving care in hospital.

Accompanied by her dad Guy, brother Edward and sister-in-law Nichola, 32-year-old Mary Clark will bravely face her fears on 11 May by stepping out of a plane at 10,000 feet. She is raising money for the charity after we provided a welcoming ‘Home from Home’ when her two-week-old son Alfie fell ill with acute viral meningitis – an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord – in February 2020.

Alfie Clark receiving treatment in hospital. Credit: Mary Clark

Alfie was taken to A&E at Queens Hospital in Romford, where he suffered numerous seizures before being placed in an induced coma and transferred to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel for specialist care. Mary said:

Alfie became really unsettled at home, so after calling 111 they sent an ambulance to take us to hospital, just as a precaution. After a very traumatic 18 hours in A&E, Alfie had finally taken a bottle so we were expecting to go back home. However, one doctor just wasn’t completely happy with Alfie’s progress and wanted to monitor him for a little longer. We are so thankful that he made that call because things escalated so quickly after that and who knows what would have happened if we had not been in the hospital at that time.

“Alfie went downhill rapidly, being moved to the children’s ward before developing a rash and having seizures. It was at this point when the doctors at Queens Hospital told us that Alfie needed to be urgently taken to the Royal London Hospital, being placed into an induced coma for transfer. It was heart breaking – we were all so upset and scared.”

Upon arrival at the Royal London, Alfie was immediately admitted into the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) where he would spend the next four nights undergoing treatment to combat the virus. Throughout Alfie’s time in the PICU, Mary and her husband, Joe, were supported by Stevenson House, our ‘Home from Home’ which provides families with a free place to stay on the hospital site just minutes away from their child’s hospital bedside. Mary said:

Mum Mary cradles baby Alfie. Credit: Mary Clark.

“As any parent would feel, we desperately didn’t want to leave his side. However, we also knew it was very important for us to rest so we could be mentally and physically strong for Alfie. Being able to stay at Stevenson House allowed us to get that rest while also staying incredibly close to Alfie, being able to get to him in a couple of minutes should we need to.

“Our room had a phone with a direct number for the ward, meaning if we were worrying during the night, no matter the time, we could call and for an update, which would settle us for a good night sleep. For a new mum, 14 days postpartum, to be in a comfortable bed and be able to have a bath, make a hot meal and drink really did make a massive difference. I will forever be grateful for that support.”

Mary and Joe stayed at Stevenson House for a total of four nights, removing the worry of an hour-long train journey back and forth from Hornchurch and allowing them to remain close throughout Alfie’s time in intensive care. Thankfully, Alfie’s condition improved day by day, eventually being moved out of intensive care to a ward with a private room, where Mary could also stay. Mary said: 

Alfie made an amazing recovery, and we are so lucky that he’s had no further issues. From the moment his health started to improve he went from strength to strength. Watching him running around playing football now, you never would have guessed the start in life he had.”

Talking about her jump and why so many of her family members were keen to take part, Mary said:

“Alfie falling so ill was a big shock to everyone, including my family. Even though they didn’t stay in the house themselves, they were as grateful of The Sick Children’s Trust’s support as we were, so they didn’t take much convincing about doing the skydive. We are all very nervous and I’m scared of heights, but excited to take on this challenge as a team, going under the name ‘Alfie’s Air Crew’.

“We are continuing to spread the word to try to raise as much as possible. However, I’ll never be able to raise enough money to show how incredibly grateful I am to this wonderful charity. In what is such a stressful situation, being offered a place to rest your head within throwing distance of your poorly child is like someone giving you a cuddle when you most need it.”

Mary is one of 31 fundraisers taking part in The Sick Children’s Trust’s Skydive weekend on 11-12 May, generating vital funds for to ensure that our ten ‘Homes from Home’ across the country can continue support families with a seriously ill child in hospital with a warm and comfortable place to stay.

More information about Mary’s fundraising can be found on her donation page here: .

Alfie (centre) pictured with mum Mary, dad Joe and one year old brother Frankie. Credit: Mary Clark.

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