Crawford House has supported my family on two occasions, 25 years apart. We’ll never forget their support.

Andrea was one of the first families to stay at Crawford House. 25 years later her son, Carl, would also be supported by our 'Home from Home'.

This year, Crawford House celebrates 25 years of supporting families with seriously ill children at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) and we are so grateful to have been one of the first families to stay at the ‘Home from Home’. Not only that but 20 years later my eldest son, Carl, would also be there while my grandson, Archie, was in hospital.

25 years ago my youngest son, Sam, was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of three, which as you can imagine came as a complete shock to us. While he was at nursery Sam become unwell and looked pale and seemed really lethargic. I was going to take him to the doctors but when he perked back up the next day I thought he was ok. A day later however I noticed a red rash on his stomach and took him to the doctors. The GP was concerned it could be the result of something more serious and sent us to our local hospital in Middlesbrough.

The doctors examined his stomach and told us they could feel something there, maybe an enlarged spline so they did some blood tests. Those tests indicated that Sam might have leukaemia. We were transferred to the RVI where further blood tests and a lumbar puncture were carried out to determine what type of leukaemia we were dealing with. Sam was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and was immediately given blood transfusions and started chemotherapy.

It felt like this had come completely out of nowhere. We were left feeling really shocked and worried. You read about these really sad stories of children with cancer but you never think it is going to happen to your own child or family. It hit me hardest when we went onto the children’s cancer ward with Sam and we saw all the other children having their treatment. It was really difficult to know that he would be going through the same thing.

“It’s almost impossible to sleep on the wards with the beeping of the machines and the continued activity. Being able to sleep in a quiet room at Crawford House made such a difference.”

The first year was the toughest as Sam had long stays in hospital while he received chemotherapy as well as radiotherapy. Me and Sam’s dad, Kevin, were sleeping by his bedside for the first few days he was in hospital before we were told that only one parent could stay on the ward. Neither of us wanted to leave Sam’s side and thankfully we didn’t have to as this was when we found out about the new ‘Home from Home’ The Sick Children’s Trust had opened called Crawford House. It is located just a few minutes’ walk from the RVI and it was such a relief to know we had somewhere we could stay close to Sam. Not only that it gave us a base where we could keep our things, have a shower and get our heads down for a proper night’s sleep. It’s almost impossible to sleep on the wards with the beeping of the machines and the continued activity throughout the night so being able to sleep somewhere quiet in an actual bed made such a difference. Me and Kevin took it in turns to sleep on the ward while the other stayed at Crawford House so we could both be with Sam and get that extra rest.

We live 42 miles away from the RVI so making that trip every day would have been horrible. When your child is that ill you just want to be by their side, not worrying about if you can get back there quickly. The Sick Children’s Trust made this possible and gave us one less thing to worry about.

Sam’s treatment was successful enough that he was able to return home after a week in hospital, but as he continued to received chemotherapy and radiotherapy he was in and out of hospital multiple times over the next two years. Due to Sam’s weakened immune system he also was admitted to hospital several times after becoming very poorly with infections. We stayed at Crawford House again for a lot of the time Sam was in hospital and it was such a reassurance to know the ‘Home from Home’ was there and we could stay close to him again. His older brother, Carl, also came to stay at Crawford House with us on the weekends which was important so we could still spend some time with him. When Sam was better he visited the ‘Home from Home’ too and we could have meals together as a whole family. After those two years Sam’s leukaemia went into remission which was such a momentous day for us all and he has remained in remission for 22 years now.

Fast forward 20 years, we came across Crawford House again when my grandson, Archie, needed treatment for a cyst on his lung. Carl and his wife Lauren had been told surgery could be likely when Archie was born, so we expected he would need a hospital stay. I told them all about Crawford House and the difference their support made when Sam was in hospital and that they would probably be supported there too. It gave us some extra comfort to know they would be able to stay just as close to Archie as we did to Sam.

Archie’s surgery was a success and he has been thriving ever since, which you can find out more about here. You never expect to use something like The Sick Children’s Trust’s ‘Homes from Home’, let alone twice with two family members, but we did and we will never forget the invaluable support they gave us.

Andrea Gordon, Sam’s mum and Archie’s grandmother.

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