23 year old Jamie Smith was involved in a serious car accident 14 years ago which left him fighting for his life. Despite life-changing injuries, he has just completed a 51 mile walk raising £1,600 for The Sick Children’s Trust as thanks for supporting his parents with free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation.
When he was nine years old, Jamie was hit by a car on his way to see his Grandad. He was rushed to the family’s local hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, where his parents Karen and Kevin were told to pack an overnight bag as Jamie needed specialist treatment at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge – over 64 miles away from home. Mum Karen says:
“To know that your child is in a life-threatening condition is unbelievably stressful on its own, but when you’re told that they have to be transferred miles away from home, your life is suddenly thrown into absolute turmoil.
“That first night we were given a place to stay by the hospital which was great, but we still weren’t sure what we would do for the rest of the time as we knew that Jamie would be in hospital for a while.
“Thankfully, The Sick Children’s Trust gave us a place to stay in its ‘Home from Home’ Acorn House, which meant we didn’t have to leave Jamie’s side. We couldn’t afford a hotel, so we would’ve had to travel to and from the hospital – a three hour round trip – every day for six weeks. And when you’re under so much stress, and worried for your child, to do that would be torture. Acorn House was simply amazing and took a lot of stress off our shoulders by giving us a place to stay which was so close to Jamie. It also enabled our other son Elliott to come and spend the weekends with us so that he could be close to his brother too.”
Jamie was treated in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for six weeks for a severe head injury. He was in an induced coma for the majority of the time. This resulted in Jamie’s muscles weakening which meant his arms and hands became clenched and his legs and feet became clenched and distorted with high muscle tone. Because of that, he had to have hand, arm and leg splints to try and help straighten his limbs again which happened slowly over the next six months. After six weeks Jamie was transferred back to his local hospital, but still had to undergo intensive treatment. After a few weeks back in Norwich, Jamie had his tracheotomy removed and then in the November could eat well enough to have the peg feed into his stomach removed. Karen continues:
“Jamie had to learn to do everything again. The doctors don’t tell you their predictions for the future and to be honest we thought that Jamie would never be able to walk again as we left Addenbrooke’s Hospital with Jamie in a wheelchair. Jamie spoke his first few words early October which was the most recognition we had from him since the accident in June.
“But Jamie showed us all what he was made of, and what he was capable of. He survived, and 14 years on from his accident he’s continuing to do really well. He’s living independently, has his own dog and loves the outdoors.
“We’ve always told Jamie about The Sick Children’s Trust and how the charity was there for us so we could be there for him, so he’s always wanted to do something to say thank you for keeping us by his side. Jamie came up with the idea of doing a sponsored walk – originally his target was just £300 and he reached that within two days! We’re so proud of how far he’s come and all that he’s achieved.
“I hope by sharing our story that we can give other families hope, who are going through something similar. At the time, we didn’t feel like we could talk to anyone – but reading someone else’s story can give you hope and relief in another way.”
Jamie completed his challenge in three days with his Support Worker accompanying him along the way. He says: “It was a long hard walk with not much civilization on day one so we had to carry lunch and drinks with us. We then had an extra two miles to walk to our hotel for the night. On day two we were able to stop off at McDonalds and enjoyed a cream tea later in the afternoon. Despite having massive blister’s on both feet we completed day three walking a total of 51 miles over the three days. The weather was kind to us. I am proud of what I have achieved and the money I have raised for The Sick Children’s Trust.”