It makes a difference to know that someone’s thought about you
Christmas is a time for family. Everyone gathering around the Christmas tree opening presents, sitting at the table tucking into home-cooked food both arguing and laughing. It’s one of the most important times of the year.
My partner, Daniel, and I always thought last Christmas would be the best one ever. We found out I was pregnant in February, expecting our baby to arrive in October and I pictured us celebrating our baby’s first Christmas in our first family home. It couldn’t have been more different. But because someone thought of us, we still managed to be together which is what mattered the most. Even if that was in a hospital miles away from home.
By Christmas Day 2018, our son George was 23 weeks old. He should’ve been six weeks. He was born on 10 July 2018 weighing 700g and was being cared for in Sheffield Children’s Hospital. He’d already had five surgeries due to complications which came with him being born so prematurely. In the months leading up to Christmas Day, we really hoped that we’d be home by the holidays so it was upsetting when the reality dawned on us that George wasn’t well enough.
It could’ve been a really awful time, but actually it wasn’t. We were being supported by a charity called The Sick Children’s Trust, the charity that gives families a place to stay close to their seriously ill child’s hospital bedside. It had become a second home for us as we’d been in Sheffield Children’s Hospital for a long time by this point. Someone had thoughtfully donated money to the charity, which meant we could still celebrate George’s first Christmas as a family.
Magnolia House, which is one of two ‘Homes from Home’ in Sheffield run by the charity, was decorated with all the trimmings and a little present was left by Father Christmas for George to open. On Christmas Day we headed over to spend the day with George, but one thing that really made my day was returning to Magnolia House for dinner with Daniel. As we walked into the kitchen there was a whole family there, enjoying a traditional Christmas dinner. All these little things made a massive difference to what could’ve been a really sad time for us.
It makes a massive difference to know that someone’s thought about you. A complete stranger who has decided to donate £30, £60 or £120 so that you don’t have to worry about leaving your child’s bedside over the Christmas period. As a parent you will do whatever possible to stay with your child, at whatever cost. But to have someone take that weight from your shoulders is such a huge gesture. The best gift of all. The gift of togetherness.
We live an hour away from Sheffield, so having the closeness that The Sick Children’s Trust gives you by handing you keys to a room a short walk from your child means a lot. If we’d had to make the journey from home every day, in an emergency we wouldn’t have been able to get to George in time. At Magnolia House, and Treetop House where we later stayed, when I received a call to say George was struggling I was there in a minute. Having a ‘Home from Home’ gives you safety. I knew that I was never far away from my son’s bedside when I went to bed at night, or went to wash or just take five minutes out. When his dad went back to work I didn’t ever feel alone. It was scary, but I was surrounded by the amazing staff at The Sick Children’s Trust and other families who I’d eat with in the evening or chat to over a cup of tea.
At certain points, things seemed impossible. We were in a different city, far away from home. It was really scary. The unexpected ups and downs which came at any point. We were away from our family and friends. I can honestly say it would’ve been a million times harder without the support of The Sick Children’s Trust. The ‘Homes from Home’ became a massive support. The staff were friendly and kind, doing their best to make the lives of each family as easy as possible.
For so many days I wished and hoped for George to get better and promised him that when he did we would start giving back to all those people that helped us. There’s a long list, but George is better now and he’s very happy. He does have complex needs and regular visits to hospital, but he’s happy.
This Christmas, we’re hoping to be at home. Creating the Christmas we’d imagined last year. The winter season is the worse time for George’s health, but at least we’re not scared anymore or nervous. We know that there is support available from The Sick Children’s Trust who will do all they can to keep our family together.
We’re asking everyone to think about how they will be spending Christmas this year, and think about all those poorly children in hospital who won’t be at home. Families should be together at Christmas and by donating £30 to The Sick Children’s Trust, you can make sure they can create special memories together – no matter where they are.
Martin and Adele have been staying at Magnolia House while one of their twins, Joshua, is treated at Sheffield Children's Hospital. They are facing Christmas and the New Year in hospital, but our 'Home from Home' is easing some of their worries
Esther became critically ill last Autumn. She had a rare virus and was also diagnosed with SCID, she spent three months in hospitals across the country. We gave her parents a place to stay so they could be right by her side.
Every year we help families by giving them somewhere to stay near their seriously ill child’s hospital bedside. Sign up to receive our email newsletters to stay up to date with how your support is helping to keep families together.