Thetford mum all set for fundraising skydive for The Sick Children's Trust

Leonie Rabey is raising vital funds for us after we provided her with a welcoming ‘Home from Home’ while her four-month-old son Max received critical care at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. 

A mum from Thetford is taking on a skydive to raise money for The Sick Children’s Trust after we provided support while her baby son was in hospital.

On 11 May, 30-year-old Leonie Rabey will take part in the charity’s skydive challenge, boarding a plane in the fenland town of March before soaring over the Cambridgeshire skies and leaping from 10,000 feet. She’s raising vital funds for us after we provided her with a welcoming ‘Home from Home’ while her four-month-old son Max received critical care at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Baby Max in hospital. Credit: Leonie Rabey.

In February 2023, Max was rushed to the West Suffolk Hospital’s accident and emergency department in Bury St Edmunds, where he was diagnosed with a brain bleed, a potentially life-threatening condition. Having seizures and needing urgent specialist care, Max was immediately placed on a ventilator and taken by the PaNDR children’s ambulance service to Addenbrookes, where he remained for the next five days. Leonie said:

“I travelled with Max in the ambulance, arriving at Addenbrooke’s at around 3am. He was very poorly and I was so worried, knowing that there was a chance that I might lose him. He spent the next two days on a ventilator, which was extremely upsetting.”

Throughout Max’s time at Addenbrookes, Leonie and her younger sister Yasmin – who travelled from Leicester to be by her side – were supported by Acorn House, our ‘Home from Home’ that provides families with a free place to stay on the hospital site just minutes away from their child’s hospital bedside. Leonie said:

“I don’t know what we would have done without Acorn House. Naturally, I didn’t want to leave Max’s side, let alone drive an hour back to Thetford from Cambridge each day. It meant we could be on hand should Max’s condition change, with a phone in the room connected directly to the ward so we could always be contacted even when trying to get some rest. It was hard to sleep knowing he was on the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit but having a place to rest and process everything so close to where Max was being treated was invaluable.”

Thankfully, Max’s condition began to improve, being removed from his ventilator after two days while continuing to receive medication to reduce swelling. After five days treatment at Addenbrooke’s, Max returned to the West Suffolk Hospital before being discharged a few days later, having made excellent progress. Leonie said: 

“He is doing really well now, although long term we don’t know what kind of issues he might face in terms of his ability to learn. However, he’s where he is meant to be in terms of his development, hitting all his markers. We don’t know what the future holds, but the fact that he is doing so well after something so serious is a big relief.”

Mum Leonie holds Max for the first time after his brain bleed. Credit: Leonie Rabey.

To thank our charity for its support, Leonie will head to March for her skydive, jumping from 10,000 feet and reaching speeds of up to 120mph above the Cambridgeshire countryside. Leonie said:

“When I saw the opportunity to do it for The Sick Children’s Trust I felt like it was the perfect chance to give something back to them. It makes me sad that you only become aware of an amazing charity like this when you really need them, so I hope I can help raise money and awareness.”

“I must admit, as a parent you do start thinking more about your own mortality, which has added an element of fear that I haven’t felt before. My friends and family think it’s a bit mad but are not at all surprised I’m doing this. They are very supportive, although think I am crazy.”

Leonie is one of 31 fundraisers taking part in The Sick Children’s Trust’s Skydive weekend on 11-12 May, generating vital funds 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. Community Fundraising Manager, Elisa Cappello-Dowd, said:

“We’re so pleased we could support Leonie and Yasmin while Max was receiving treatment in hospital, and we are delighted to learn that he is doing so well now. We can’t thank Leonie enough for taking part in our skydive weekend and supporting our ‘Homes from Home’ so we can keep more families together.

“Our ‘Homes from Home’ are much more than bricks and mortar. Our friendly, caring staff provide vital support to families when they need it most. The Sick Children’s Trust does not charge families to stay in any of its ‘Homes from Home’ however it does cost the charity £40 to support a family for one night. As a charity we rely on the generosity of our supporters and fundraisers like Leonie to make sure we can continue supporting families while their children are seriously ill in hospital.”

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

One year on, Max is going from strength to strength. Credit: Leonie Rabey.

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