For most, the festive season is a happy time spent with loved ones. But for many children and their families at Bristol Children’s Hospital and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Christmas will look very different.
Tom knows exactly how it feels to spend Christmas far from home. Last year, he spent his at Bristol Children’s Hospital, hoping his four-year-old son Harry would make it through.
“Our Christmas looked very different last year. While my wife was shopping, I was home alone with my four-year-old son, Harry. Harry said he didn’t feel very well – his eyes started to flick uncontrollably. He couldn’t stop vomiting.
Tom, Harry’s dad
It was horrendous to see him in this state. Harry – our cheeky monkey – was usually full of energy. Instead, he was pale and lifeless. I was terrified.
An ambulance arrived after I rang 111. So, on 23 December, we found ourselves at the Emergency Department at Bristol Children’s Hospital. We spent a lot of time there while doctors tried to diagnose Harry. He looked so small and helpless in the large beds.
Staff identified that Harry might have a problem with his brain. We were moved to the neuro department, where we were greeted by the lovely staff.
Harry kept asking me to make it all better – to stop the pain in his head. I felt useless. All I wanted to do was take whatever was happening to him and put it in me. I would have done it in a heartbeat if it was possible!
Christmas is always a special time of year for children, but Harry wasn’t interested. He was too poorly. Meanwhile, my wife and daughter were back home, wondering if he would be okay. My daughter sat at home crying as she held her brother’s Christmas tree decoration. I felt like we’d let them down.
No child should have to spend Christmas in hospital. They should be at home with their families getting excited about the big day and enjoying the festivities. Yet on Christmas Eve, Harry was sent for a scan.
Staff considered anesthetising Harry for the scan to keep him still, but he was so exhausted he slept through the whole procedure. Eventually, we received the good news there was nothing wrong with his brain. A huge relief. Harry was actually suffering from a severe case of child vertigo.
Tom, Harry’s dad
Later that evening, Harry said, “Daddy, will Santa forget about me?” “He won’t forget about you; he just might not deliver your presents here because he’s expecting you to be home,” I replied, holding back the tears.
But at some point in the night, Santa did deliver. When Harry woke up, he couldn’t believe his eyes – a bag of presents all for him. He was over the moon.
Even I was shocked! This incredible gesture made us both feel a bit more Christmassy. Without the generosity of Grand Appeal supporters, spending the festivities in the hospital would have been so upsetting.
The staff were fantastic too. They all dressed up and did their best to make a fuss. Their passion for helping others is clear to see. I can’t thank them enough for everything they have done.
Arriving home on Christmas Day was a gift in itself. We celebrated Boxing Day by spending the whole day together as a family. It felt truly magical to have Harry home.
We are all hoping for Christmas at home this year. I wouldn’t wish to spend Christmas in the hospital with my children ever again, but for some, they will have to. Whatever you donate this December will make tough times that little bit easier. I can assure you.”
By donating to our appeal, you can make Christmas sparkle for sick children at Bristol Children’s Hospital and St Michael’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Your money will help fund the comfort of a place to stay for parents in our accommodation for families, music and play therapy to help children express themselves and the equipment that saves young lives.