“After all Seb’s visitors left the ward, I would read books to him, we’d do word searches together and watch Netflix. Me and my sister would take it in turns to stay with mum and dad at Crawford House and although I wasn’t there all the time it was nice to know my sister was so that when Seb woke up I knew she’d be there for him.
“It was a sad moment in time when Seb was in hospital, I missed him and I missed my mum and dad, so it was nice to go away and spend a night with them at Crawford House and be near Seb. I knew he was being taken care of, but I was still worried about him and Crawford House helped with that.
“Crawford House was really good to go to after being at the hospital. It was really quiet which was good as it was so noisy on the wards with the heart monitors. It was where we could chat to mum and dad in a room away from everyone and everything.”
Gabby, 11, Seb’s sister
The night Seb was rushed to hospital, Gabby had gone to bed thinking that her brother had a tummy bug. Gabby and Seb share a room so when she woke up to find out he was in hospital it was a shock.
Initially we put Seb’s sickness down to a tummy bug, but he really didn’t look well and I had a feeling that something wasn’t right. Within hours his health fell off a cliff and I took him to Darlington Memorial Hospital where he was rushed for emergency surgery. It was really dramatic – the surgeons couldn’t tell what was wrong and so had operate to investigate.
What the surgeons discovered was that part of Seb’s umbilical cord remained and it had strangled his bowel. It happens in 2% of people and is normally discovered when a child is quite young and operated on then, but Seb had made it to seven years old without it being an issue. In surgery, they had to untangle the cord and leave his tummy open. At one point I thought he’d died and was thinking of his sisters, Gabby, Alex and Nicole and what I would say to them.
Seb was put into an induced coma and was transferred to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary for further surgery to close his tummy. It should’ve taken two hours to get him there, but ended up taking six. At this point his dad, Allan, and I hadn’t had a wink of sleep. I was so exhausted that I was physically sick. When we arrived we had to manage with whatever sleep we could get. There was a free bed at one point on the ward which Allan and I laid down on for a couple of hours but we couldn’t shower or freshen up and were still running on empty.
48 hours had passed since we first took Seb to hospital and it was at this point that we were told about Crawford House run by The Sick Children’s Trust. It was just a few minutes’ walk from Seb’s ward where we could go and rest. And sleep. We were given a room with a single and a pull-out bed and could also warm up by having a soak in the bath which did us the world of good.
The enormity of the situation weighed heavily on both me and Allan. We were in shock that our son was nearly taken from us in a sudden turn of events. Everything so precious was hanging by a thread. We didn’t want to leave Seb’s side because of this, because we were petrified about his second surgery. We were on eggshells that something terrible would happen.
“During the days we stayed at Crawford House we recognised how special The Sick Children’s Trust staff were.”
Crawford House meant that Allan and I didn’t have to choose who would stay with Seb and who had to go. One of us could sleep on the ward next to Seb and the other in our room at the ‘Home from Home’. Most importantly, we no longer felt torn between having our girls with us at the hospital or not. We’re such a close knit family that it was breaking our hearts not being together, but we also needed to protect Seb’s sisters from the distress of hearing how poorly he was. By having a place to stay just a short walk from the hospital we could have our girls with us but when the doctors needed to speak to us about Seb’s condition, one of us could take the girls over to Crawford House for a break and make sure they didn’t have to hear upsetting things.
The advantage of Crawford House was the peace and quiet and having a little cuddle with our girls. A bit of family time went a long way after sleepless nights and exhausting days on the wards. Seb’s room would often be busy with visitors and I would be taking care of him throughout the day. To be able to grab a coffee and take it to our room at Crawford and just chat – away from the hustle and bustle – was a huge benefit.
We stayed at Crawford House for ten days before Seb was out of the danger zone and was making steps to recovery. During the days we stayed there we recognised how special The Sick Children’s Trust staff were. They made sure every family was being looked after, always asked the right questions but were respectful when families just wanted to get their heads down. Little things like leaving sticky notes which read ‘don’t eat me, I’m out of date’ on food I left in the fridge were absolute lifesavers.
Allan and I have worked all of our lives and we honestly never thought we’d need charity but the reality is that a child becoming seriously ill can take anybody by surprise and there’s no time to plan. When Seb was in hospital, his choir group, SSVA, started fundraising for Crawford House as they knew how much difference it made to our entire family. Sue, the instructor, has named The Sick Children’s Trust as the charity for their next big show which covers Middlesbrough, Stockton and Darlington and Seb’s sister, Nicole, is sponsoring it. Both are doing a great job of fundraising and Allan and I are hoping to use our work volunteering days to help out where we can.
Seb suddenly became very ill and our lives were uprooted for three weeks, but with the support of The Sick Children’s Trust, the excellent care he received and our friends and family Seb is doing incredibly well. The scar that remains is a sign of how strong he is, and he very proudly shows that off!
Terry Payne, Nicole, Alex, Gabby and Seb’s mum