Dad’s epic fundraising challenge to support The Sick Children’s Trust

Paul Dutch is taking on several fundraising challenges to support Chestnut House where he stayed while his son Charlie was undergoing surgery for a rare birth condition

A dad from Harlow in Essex is taking on series of challenges to raise funds for The Sick Children’s Trust, the charity that supported him while his newborn son was having surgery to correct a rare birth condition.

Paul Dutch is beginning his fundraising by taking on a 10,000ft skydive on the 25th May before he takes part in the charity’s Long Ride Home challenge, cycling 370 miles throughout the month of June. Paul wanted to raise money to thank the charity for supporting him and his partner, Chelsea, while their son Charlie has been receiving vital care at The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge.

During labour, Charlie’s heartbeat dropped each time Chelsea had a contraction, resulting in a caesarean section delivery at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow on 4 April 2024. Suffering breathing difficulties during delivery, Charlie was immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

The NICU medical team made an unsuccessful attempt to pass a breathing tube down Charlie’s throat, with an x-ray revealing that it had coiled. Charlie was then diagnosed with oesophageal atresia (OA) and tracheo-oesophageal fistula (TOF) a condition which had caused his oesophagus to not be joined to his stomach, preventing him from swallowing and food reaching his stomach.

The couple had barely seen their newborn son, but Charlie required specialist surgical treatment to correct both the OA and TOF conditions, which would need to take place at The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge. Paul travelled with Charlie in the ambulance as he was taken to Cambridge but with Chelsea still recovering from her own surgery, she was unable to join them until she was discharged.

Charlie underwent surgery when he was just one day old and whilst the surgical team were successful in correcting the TOF, the attempt to correct the OA wasn’t fully successful. Charlie will need another surgery in late June to stretch and reattach his oesophagus to his stomach. Being many miles from home, Paul was able to spend the first night in temporary accommodation at the hospital. However, while Charlie was being prepared for surgery, the nurses told him he could stay at Chestnut House, a ‘Home from Home’ ran by The Sick Children’s Trust.

After being discharged Cheslea was able to join Paul at Chestnut House, staying there for three weeks while Charlie recovered from his initial surgery. While Charlie remains on the NICU at The Rosie Hospital, being fed by a tube directly into his stomach, Paul and Chelsea made the selfless decision to leave Chestnut House so another family can be supported by the ‘Home from Home’. Chelsea and Paul now visit the hospital to see Charlie daily whilst he awaits his next surgery. To thank the charity for its support whilst they stayed at Chestnut House Paul is now fundraising through various challenges. He said:

“By the time Charlie was going for his surgery I’d barely slept over the last two days. I was completely alone in Cambridge with nothing with me. Being able to stay at the hospital and then at Chestnut House was vital so we could be there for our son.

“As first-time parents having your newborn son rushed to a different hospital and undergoing surgery at a day old was really worrying. Thanks to the support of Chestnut House we could be with Charlie at any time of day or night as the ‘Home from Home’ is located within the hospital, just a few floors beneath Charlie’s ward.

“With Charlie being stable and not having any surgeries for the time being we made the decision to leave Chestnut House so another family can benefit from the charity’s support. The ‘Homes from Home’ are in such high demand and for now we can make the journey from Harlow.

“It was such an incredible support for us that I wanted to do something to give back to the charity. The Sick Children’s Trust do not charge any of the families they support but it does cost the charity £40 to support a family for a night. I want to raise as much as possible for them and thought by taking on two challenges, including a cycle from Harlow to Cambridge, rather than one would encourage more donations! I’ve always wanted to do a skydive so while I’ll be nervous on the day it will be a great experience so I’m looking forward to it.”

More information about Paul’s fundraising can be found on his Just Giving page

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