We'll be forever grateful for the support of Stevenson House

When four year old Ron Irving was transferred from Southend to the Royal London Hospital suffering with sepsis from a suspected burst appendix, our Stevenson House 'Home from Home' ensured that his family could stay by his side

On New Year’s Eve 2023 my four-year-old son Ronald became seriously ill. He had been very poorly around Christmas time but got far worse in the days that followed. We took him to A and E at our local hospital in Southend-On-Sea, where they quickly realised that he was suffering from sepsis due to a suspected burst appendix. We were told that Ron needed to be immediately transferred by ambulance to the Royal London Hospital, some 45 miles away from home.

Ron Irving. Credit: Louisa Golding.

It was incredibly distressing for myself and my partner, James – I think we were both in a state of shock. We went from the diagnosis in Southend to arriving in London in just a couple of hours, having to leave our 16-month-old daughter Violet – who I’d never been away from – with my parents, which was painfully difficult. Everything happened so quickly, it was like a whirlwind.  

We arrived at the Royal London at 9.30pm, where the medical staff told us that Ron would have an appendix removal operation on New Year’s Day. As the appendix had already burst, the priority was to manage the sepsis, giving him various drugs to combat the infection that had taken over his little body. He really was a very poorly little boy, with the next 72 hours being critical.   

Not wanting to leave Ron, we were relieved when the hospital let us stay the night. We certainly didn’t have spare funds to pay for a hotel in London, especially on one of the most expensive nights of the year. However, with Ron likely to be in hospital for two weeks we desperately needed to find a way to stay close to him. Thankfully I noticed some information on the hospital website about a charity called The Sick Children’s Trust and their Stevenson House ‘Home from Home’. I immediately thought that they might be able to help us.  

As planned, Ron’s operation took place on New Year’s Day. While the surgery went well, the sepsis remained the biggest worry. Knowing that he wouldn’t be leaving any time soon, we booked into a nearby hotel. It wasn’t cheap, but we needed to stay close to him and were prepared to do whatever was necessary for that to happen. 

The next morning, we were given a room at Stevenson House and it was such a weight off our minds. The room itself was so lovely, nicer than some of the hotels I’ve been in. But the main thing was the location, being just five minutes’ walk from Ron’s ward. We were so grateful.    

The Sick Children’s Trust describe their houses as ‘Homes from Home’, and they truly are. To have a safe, warm, and clean space to retreat to, a place where you can have a hot shower and make the most of full home facilities was so reassuring to us. It was one piece of stability at a time that was anything but. I can’t even begin to think what we would have done otherwise – at one point it seemed that the corridor chairs were looking like our only option. 

Mum Louisa with Violet and Ron. Credit: Louisa Golding.

We were fortunate enough to stay at Stevenson House right up until Ron was discharged, on 8 January. He had been so ill, losing more than half a stone in weight. But when he did finally turn a corner, it happened so quickly. Suddenly he was back to being himself again. My wonderful dad, who brought us a bag containing fresh clothes and supplies when Ron was initially transferred to London, returned to collect us all by car, using Stevenson House as our perfect meeting point. It was lovely to be able to show both my dad and Ron where we had been staying, as they’d heard all about it from us.  

I had never heard of this charity before we needed their help, but now I am doing everything I can to spread the word about how they support families with a poorly child in hospital despite being many miles from their own home. I’m fundraising too, having set up a Just Giving page and encouraging everyone to give generously. The company I work for, Olympus, has agreed to match-fund everything raised so far, which is brilliant. It is so great to be able to give something back to the charity that was there for us when we most needed it.  It is a horrible situation to be in, but Stevenson House really made things so much better for us during what was a scary and upsetting time.    

Ron is doing brilliantly now – the hospital stay is a distant memory to him, thankfully. His scars have healed well, and I cannot fault the staff at the Royal London, who were amazing throughout his time there. He is doing great at school, back to his usual, cheeky self. It is the biggest relief.  

As much as I wish that the circumstances that left us needing that support had never happened, I will forever be grateful and will never be able to say thank you enough times to Stevenson House and The Sick Children’s Trust.  

Louisa Golding, Ron’s mum

Ron sharing a happy moment with dad James. Credit: Louisa Golding.

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