In February 2003, when I was ten, I became very ill - I could barely sit up, let alone walk. The doctor said it was the flu, but after a few days it was still getting worse. When the doctor came to see me again, he was there for less than five minutes before leaving the room with my mum. It was clearly bad news, because she was crying as she came back in - she told me not to worry and that an ambulance was coming for me. Seeing my mum crying made me a little scared, but being in the back of the ambulance telling me that they need to put the siren on made me realise just how serious things actually were - I was terrified!
After the doctors examined me in Brighton General Hospital, I was diagnosed with pneumonia and taken to Guy’s Hospital in London, where they put me on an oscillator which expands the lungs and keeps them filled with air. From this point I don’t remember much at all. After a week in Guy’s Hospital with no improvement, they decided to transfer me to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) to put me on an ECMO machine, which puts oxygen into the blood and pumps it into and around the body. My condition was so critical that they told my parents to say goodbye to me as they weren’t sure if I would survive the 30 minute journey.
Fortunately I did and I was put on an ECMO machine on GOSH’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. It was at this time that my mum, dad, brother and sisters moved into Guilford Street House, one of The Sick Children’s Trust’s ‘Homes from Home’, which is just around the corner from the hospital. Having a place to stay so close to my hospital bed meant they could be with me whenever they wanted, without having to worry about the little things, like where they could go for a meal, or where they would sleep. When I woke up after a week on intensive care, the doctors were able to ring the phone in my parents’ room, to tell them that they could pop over to see me.
As the weeks went on I was transferred to Badger Ward which specialises in lung problems. This is when I really started to appreciate how close my family were at Guilford Street House. As I started getting better they were able to take me for days out - I went to the animal park and to restaurants, but even just going to visit Guilford Street House to spend time with my family made life feel a bit more normal and made me feel a bit less sick.
In the end, and with my family’s support, I recovered. And in September 2015, twelve years later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy called Oscar. When he was born they had to take him to the special care baby unit because he had pneumonia. When I heard this my heart sank - it brought the whole experience right back. I remembered how ill I had been from the same illness, and it terrified me. But thankfully he recovered quickly, and is now a healthy bouncing boy who makes me smile every day.
I would like to say a huge thank you to The Sick Children’s Trust for being there for my family. Being ten years old, I wouldn't have been able to cope if I had only seen them once a week. The Sick Children’s Trust needs donations to keep these houses running, to help ensure that families like mine can stay nearby. I hope that by abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower I can raise lots of money for this wonderful organisation.
Rebecca, now 23
Find out more about the abseil here: http://www.sickchildrenstrust.org/News/index.html#/pressreleases/family-fundraisers-abseiling-to-thank-the-sick-childrens-trust-for-support-1485994