In my last medical/hospital related blog (the blog before Meeting the Agnew Family) I mentioned how I had been discussing my next charity event with Ann and Rowena on my walk back to start my journey home from London after my Pre Op Assessment. However I left no spoilers on there :).
Now some of you may be clever and realise hey hold on a minute the title is charity Christmas and Christmas has been and gone ,surely there must be a hint or a clue somewhere about this? well you would be right..Guilty I’ve fallen behind in keeping my blog up to date where I have been super busy with work and working overtime to compensate for going into hospital in the new year, sign language, choir, this charity campaign and just life getting in the way really .That It’s only now I’ve found the five minutes,well two weeks really to sit and update my blog.
So yes those of you that follow my facebook page will have already seen this and know all about this…
Those of you who only follow the blog won’t know and so those of you that do will pretend now that you have no idea what I’m on about and that this is the first time you know about any of this and it will all come as a total surprise to you…
Whilst walking home from shopping in town early November to get a few bits and pieces that I needed and a couple of children’s Christmas story books for hampers we were making as raffle prizes for our signing choir show .I thought to myself how I might go back later that week or the following week and pick up a few more as they were doing an offer any 10 children’s books for £10 and all of the children’s Christmas stories were on this offer and there was just so many there to choose from.
I then thought but hold on I don’t know of any young children I can buy these books for as Christmas presents.I would buy some for work but they will just get destroyed and ruined and I just didn’t feel they would be appreciated.
I remembered a statistic that I had heard whilst studying childcare that most children do not see their first book until the age of 6 in a school classroom .This has always deeply upset me .
From a young age I have always loved books ,and loved reading .I always remember from a very young age my parents reading me a story before bed , it’s just always upset me to think that this is actually in the minority and not many children get this experience with books until school age , in a school classroom.This genuinely saddens me I couldn’t picture life without books or not knowing what a book was or is.
Then it hit me ..
I knew what I would do..
I decided I would be going back to buy some more books and decided I would donate them to Peter Pan Ward at Great Ormond Street Hospital, to the children that would be spending the Christmas period in hospital.
For years now I have wanted to do a Christmas donation of gifts to Peter Pan ward and I either just haven’t got round to it, run out of time or have been stuck as to what to do or how to go about it.
So I decided this year was THE year I would do exactly that.
I went and got 10 books and set myself the goal of filling one small storage box full of books and that I would then get the train up to London on 24th December 2019..Christmas Eve and donate them.
I shared my idea on my personal Facebook page (not the one linked with my blog) , shared it on a few community pages with the idea of making not only my friends ,family ,work colleagues ,sign language and choir friends know about my idea but also my local community to see if anyone would be able to help me with my goal .I know for us as a family when I was little my parents would clear out toys and gifts from earlier in the year to make room for the new toys that I got at Christmas.
I sent it out around various Facebook pages with this message:
Hey everyone, from the age of 4 months old I was under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital and was until I was 21 years old.. I’ve always done fundraisers and charity events and of course my blog to raise awareness and funds for them to give back to them for everything they have done for me as I truly have no words to describe the care I received so much so they have become my second family and even to this day I still hold them very dear to me and are no words to describe how incredible they are .
Now this Christmas something I would love to do is to give back to great Ormond street, and give to the children who will be spending their Christmas in hospital and would love to donate Christmas activities, story books, puzzles and games to Peter Pan ward, the ward I was always on and give some Christmas cheer to those who may not get to spend Christmas at home with family and loved ones as a child should be able to .I was always fortunate enough to not need to stay in hospital over Christmas,However there are children who won’t be well enough to spend Christmas at home, now I know GOSH will take fantastic care of them and they’ll be in the best possible hands, however I cannot bare the thought of a child being away from home feeling like Christmas won’t be a happy,magical or special time more to the point I do not want a child feeling alone or forgotten about at Christmas,especially when knowing their friends will be at home with family ,opening presents,having fun.
If anyone has any of the following and would love to help me this would be greatly appreciated and I would be happy to come and collect from you
Christmas stories/books for children of all ages up to 18
Books for children and teens
Baby toys, books, games
Toddler toys, games, books
Art and craft
Anything else you think a child or teen in hospital would be interested in or like
Last date for donations is the 18th December as I will be going up to great Ormond street hospital on the 19th
Please note for GOSH to accept them they must be new and sealed due to infection control
Thank you xxx
I did not expect to get any response from this whatsoever, but what actually followed stunned and shocked me to the point of being a blubbering wreck, totally gobsmacked and speechless- I know me speechless!! Never!! but oh you better believe it because I sure was , it’s not often that happens!
Well that post went absolutely bananas on social media with messages flooding in from other families who have used Great Ormond Street Hospital wishing me the best of luck and seconding everything I had said about the care and love provided by GOSH, others offering to help in anyway possible , offers of donations coming in left, right and centre, offers to DJ for events in the future , people offering to collect things in their area and so much more.
It totally blew up crazy style.
Within a matter of hours that storage box was done and filled and I’d started on a large reusable shopping bag, again in no time at all this was done and filled..
…what was happening?!
this was madness….
brilliant but mad..
My post got shared, shared again and then shared some more and was everywhere on my Facebook timeline. This meant so much to me to see this and all the offers of help popping up left,right and centre I just couldn’t believe it.
I was on cloud 9 and honestly thought I was dreaming and I’d wake up and this whole thing would have been a dream, yet every morning I woke up to even more offers of donations and help.
I had families contact me to say how fortunate they felt that their children had never been unwell or needed the support of GOSH or any other children’s hospital and wanted to help me with my campaign ,but felt they did not know what a child these days would like and also not knowing what I already had which by this point was quite a bit ,so they asked if I had thought about setting up a gofund me page so people could donate money.
This had not crossed my mind I had never thought to post asking for money.I had felt cheeky enough putting my post up to ask for donations until I thought well with it coming up to Christmas ,most families, well I know mine at least when I was younger would clear out old toys that I no longer wanted, used or played with to make room for new ones .
I just thought well every little helps if anyone had anything going spare how much that would not only mean to me but also to a child spending their Christmas in hospital.
The family that asked me about setting up a go fund me was the first person throughout this whole idea that genuinely made me cry (it doesn’t take much now in my old age) as not only did it touch me that they wanted to do something to help and trusted me with their hard earned cash and trusted me to be able to pick the best gifts to give but instead of giving £10 or £20 like I was imagining they donated £100 towards the campaign.
This touched me for so many reasons I was so stunned and shocked by the generosity and literally cried and pinched myself .wow was the only word I could find. I was so so shocked and touched it meant a Huge amount to me let alone what a difference this could and would make to Great Ormond Street…
The tears did not end there ,I had another family whose daughter spent her 1st Christmas in GOSH and who is still under their care who were just genuinely such a lovely family that I’m sure I stood there chatting to them for over 20 minutes on their doorstep ,they donated so many lovely gifts including a brand new and boxed finding dory scooter,books,games,toys literally so much stuff and again I cried like an absolute doughnut driving back to mine ,with their journey that they have been on and again by their generosity.I went home to add them on Facebook and i am still in contact with them they’re genuinely such a lovely lovely family.
I received so many lovely donations from books, board games,jigsaw puzzles, arts and crafts, DVDs, remote control cars, doctors kits, dressing up costumes, Barbie dolls ,Barbie car, Disney princess dolls, even and Alexa Echo Dot .
No word of a lie the donations took over one half of my bedroom and there was very little room for me to move , let alone get into bed but as much as usually that would have driven me bonkers I couldn’t help but pinch myself every time I came into my bedroom to see my room bursting at the seams with all these lovely donations and knowing that I would be putting a smile on the children’s faces.
I received so many lovely donations that my idea of going alone by train was very quickly out of the window, even me driving my car up to GOSH was out the window as my car is only teeny tiny and would no way hold all of the donations .
I was stumped for a while as to how I would possibly get it all up to the hospital.
However my boyfriend David stepped in to save the day and offered up his car a BMW estate car so a lot bigger than my teeny tiny Seat Mii.
We had to change the donation date to an earlier date and arranged to take everything up on the 19th December 2019 as this was not only more convenient for us with traffic and for me still working but also for GOSH .
Some how my local newspaper had caught wind of my Christmas donations appeal which I had titled a charity Christmas Magic .
The local paper had messaged me asking if they could have more information about my campaign and whether they could write up a story to make the local community aware of my campaign and to see if they could secure some more donations too.
Although I already by this point had a lot of donations I was not about to turn any extra donations or help down ,and of course accepted.
However the only issue with doing the article was that they could not get hold of me as I was constantly either at work ,sorting out drop offs of donations , answering my front door to more donations arriving , out and about collecting donations, driving here there or somewhere relating to the donations . I kept missing their calls and when I rung back I kept missing them.
In the end we both decided we still very much wanted this article to go ahead and came to the agreement that we would liaise over Facebook messenger, so that way they could ask me all the questions they wanted to know and I could then reply when I had a spare few minutes, this went backwards and forwards for a while with lots of information being passed across and lots of questions being asked, so to make the article as detailed and correct as possible.
A week later the finished article was fresh off the press and hit the local supermarkets and newsagents .My photo and a short snippet of the story had even made it onto the front cover of the paper too .
To say I was overwhelmed by this would be a HUGE understatement!
Here she is :
This only made the donations flood in even more so than they had been originally been , not that I thought that was even possible.
In honesty I was shocked the paper had picked up on the story and I hadn’t expected to get any response from the article so this was a HUGE shock to see it being shared all over Facebook and receiving so many more lovely and touching messages from the local community and incredible support offered ,let alone even more donations .
I haven’t scanned the article in but if anyone wants to read the full thing then please shout , if not you can read some of the article online here : https://www.braintreeandwithamtimes.co.uk/news/18054556.former-gosh-patient-aiming-bring-christmas-cheer-sick-children-ambitious-campaign/
Due to the volume of gifts received I had to email Great Ormond Street to let them know of my plans as well as of course to liaise with them with regards to the dates that would be possible for me to go up to do it .
Even more so when I had 11 large boxes full to the brim with gifts I felt they needed prior warning to expect A LOT of donations ,I mean at this point I was still getting donations turning up or going out to collect donations with no views of it slowing down, which was incredible.
I was able to find an email address for Neil Bulstrode, those of you who follow my blog or story will know how very much Neil means to me and well it’s safe to say he as always was fantastic in helping arrange everything ,putting me in contact with the ward manager Neil Mccintosh , forwarding all my emails across to him and liaising with him about me and the campaign .Even down to trying to arrange not only for himself but Gaynor my favourite nurse to be there, Brigitte one of the other Microtia Nurses to attend ,as well also trying to organise for one of the hospital charity photographers to come down to photograph it.
This is another reason why the blog has been very quiet as I was literally non stop busy with messages of help,support and donations, people turning up all day everyday at all hours of the day with donations, driving here there and everywhere collecting donations , even up until 10.30pm the night before I was still running around like a headless chicken trying to collect in all the final donations .
I didn’t get home from the last collection until around 11/11.30pm and even then the work was not done checking over everything to ensure it was in good enough condition and good enough quality.
Believe me this was very much needed .Someone donated a colouring book ,but every picture had been coloured in,story books with pages missing etc so everything was checked, double checked, and even triple checked to ensure it was in good enough condition and use to actually donate and then was sorted into allocated boxes arts and craft, baby toys, books,DVDs, dressing up, cars, dolls, puzzles, games, etc everything had a box.
As well as sorting it all into boxes and checking it all over …
The next part which became problematic and a bit of an issue ….loading it up into my boyfriends car…
Final count …… 12…. YES……. TWELVE large boxes full to the brim !!
12 boxes coming down the stairs from my bedroom into the lounge and very literally taking over the lounge was chaos and the first battle .Trying to navigate our way down the stairs ,adjusting and readjusting weight of boxes..
Then getting it out of the lounge into our small porch and out the front door sounds simple …
Ohhh it wasn’t .
What should have then been the easy part putting it into the car…. No this was not easy and took a lot of packing, unpacking, repacking, unpacking again between myself ,my boyfriend and by now also my dad who was involved in the process trying to find a way of getting it all to fit in the car .To the point the car was full to the brim and we still had boxes sitting in the lounge.
It got to a point that both my dad and boyfriend did not think it was all going to fit and some would have to be left behind. I was gutted as I did not want anything to get left behind and also how could I possibly make that choice of what stayed and what went?!
This was friends,family and the local communities hard work and donations I could not possibly have been put in the position of picking and choosing .
Thankfully I did not have to pick or choose as everything ended up fitting… with A LOT of packing, unpacking ,boxing and un-boxing but hey we got there ,we did it !
It took us until 1 am ,but still , we had done it!! It all fitted!
It was in !
Now to get a couple of hours sleep before waking up and heading off for London as David was getting to me for 5:30 am so that we could beat the traffic and drive very slowly up to London as he hadn’t driven to London before and was worried about the drive ,more to the point because he could not see out of his back window or passenger windows where we had all of the boxes of gifts piled up..I actually kind of wish now I had taken a photo of the car as it was absolutely packed!
It’s safe to say I did not sleep a wink .I was just so excited to get the donations to London , for this to finally be real after weeks of collecting all of the donations and gifts most of which were donations however a large portion did come out of my money too I lost count how much money I spent but that didn’t and still does not matter .The important part is the genorisity of friends,family and the local community who clubbed together to help me.
I was too excited to sleep , the thought of seeing the children’s faces, seeing some of the incredible team that cared for me for so many years again, just generally going back to Great Ormond Street . I also was so worried about one of two things
- I would go to sleep and wake up and it would have been a dream and none of this would actually be true ,or of happened
2. That I would over sleep and miss the whole thing
Of course I knew it was real and there was no way I would oversleep or miss it .I mean for one I was far to excited to sleep, like a child at Christmas so I knew I would keep waking to check the time to see if it was time to get up, I had set about a million alarms, and also my boyfriend David would be arriving at mine for 5:30 am and there would be no way he would let me sleep in either.
This was the last post I put up on my Facebook page (this time the one linked with my blog rather than personal) before trying to get some sleep:
This plus this
Can, only mean one thing…. Its great Ormond street hospital donation day!! 12 large boxes and a Scooter here I come!! So so overwhelmed at how generous family, friends and the local community have been I cannot thank everyone enough for this, it means a huge amount more than many will ever know or understand so from the bottom of my heart thank you xxx
Just under 4 hours later after posting this my first alarm went off, but in all honesty it didn’t need to go off.
I was already awake despite not getting to bed until gone 2.30am by the time the car was loaded, I’d posted this status on Facebook and answered a few messages that had come in from families and the local community who had contributed donations .
Finally after what felt like the longest night it was 5.30am and time to leave home and head to London, It was a shock to see how packed the car was there was literally no room in the back of the car with the back seats down and I even had things by my feet and on my lap too!!
Honestly the journey was so quick compared to what it could have been or usually would be and we were at Great Ormond Street Hospital just before 7 am , which brought back memories of surgery days, where I would have either of made the early morning drive up or have stayed across the road in Weston House and be admitted to the ward by 7.
We were kind of at a loss as to what to do , as we were not due to be going to the ward until 10am.
We had debated going for breakfast somewhere first, However I did not want to leave the car unattended with all of the donations .We had made it this far with them and all were still intact . I was not about to risk the car being broken into and all of the gifts being taken or well anything happening to them really.
We found somewhere to park up and I messaged Brigitte as she follows my blog and also emailed Neil Mccintosh the ward manager and asked where would be best to park and to see if when we did go up to the ward at 10 if there would be anyway of getting some help getting everything into the hospital.
There was no way it would be possible for myself and my boyfriend to get it all in ourselves. I mean we could have taken a box at a time up in the lift but this would be too time consuming as one of us would have to remain with the car and the boxes of gifts that were still in the car, whilst the other would be backwards and forwards taking boxes in .We also felt this may cause a lot of disruption to the ward in terms of to staff keep letting us in , and more importantly to the children and families staying on the ward.
Neil Mccintosh was great in helping advise where would be best to park and even suggested we park opposite the hospital and said he would come and help us get it all unloaded and up onto the ward. We politely accepted and well his face said it all when he saw the car absolutely rammed full of gifts.
I think he realised in that moment I was not joking or exaggerating when I said we had 12 large boxes of donations.Neil was able to go and grab a hospital bed and leave it in the hospital entrance and between the three of us we began unloading the boxes and carrying them into the hospital and loading them onto the hospital bed,Neil then spotted one of the student nurses coming in to start her shift and roped her into helping so she stood in the reception with the hospital bed , one of us stood with the car and the other two of us were backwards and forwards with the boxes of gifts.
There were so many boxes that the hospital bed was quite literally piled high with boxes of gifts . Neil Mccintosh and his student nurse took the hospital bed up to the ward whilst myself and my boyfriend waited in the hospital reception with the boxes and gifts that did not fit onto the bed .
Whilst waiting we took this photo of the hospital bed with all the boxes of gifts , as it was just so surreal to see and the first time any of this felt real:
About 15-20 minutes later Neil Mccintosh returned having unloaded the hospital bed full of gifts and took the remaining couple boxes of gifts up to the ward , whilst myself and my boyfriend went and moved the car before heading up to the ward where we had been invited to go and grab a drink.
It was only in this time that I noticed Brigitte had messaged me back offering both herself and Gaynor to help us transport everything into the hospital.I most definitely would have done this if I’d of seen this , just purely to get that bit of extra time with my favourite nurse really :).
Myself and David returned to GOSH a few minutes later and I took a couple of quick photos outside the hospital to update my Facebook to prove I really was doing this and I hadn’t just made off with people’s donations. I had also been messaged by my local paper asking for photos as they wanted to do a follow up story after so needed some photos for them too as I wasn’t sure if I would be allowed to take any photos later on , on the ward etc.
We both then headed up to Panther Ward and were buzzed straight through and explained why we were there and all of the nurses were chatting about all of the gifts ,asking what? was it you that brought them all in and were genuinely so thankful for all of the gifts and asked lots of questions about it and whether there had been a team of us come up with the idea.
Nope just little old me, who then roped her boyfriend into helping collect gifts as well as transporting it all up to the hospital.I mean he did have five weeks off work for Christmas, I couldn’t have him sitting around doing nothing getting bored now could I ;). note I would have done it all myself if it was physically possible, but unlike my boyfriend who had five weeks off I was still currently working full time and overtime leading up to Christmas so would have been unable to do it all myself.
I was asked if I had seen all of the gifts fully laid out which I hadn’t , on many occasions I had planned and wanted to do exactly that but had never actually got around to unboxing it all and laying it all out ,so I had only seen it all boxed up in my bedroom, the lounge and of course in the car too, as well as on the hospital bed photographed earlier on .I was invited to go to Panther Ward’s sensory room and view “santa’s grotto” as it had now been renamed which was full of the donations all laid out :
Just a couple of gifts…
There was actually more but from this angle of the photo it can’t be seen .
There were no words and I don’t think anything could have quite prepared me for seeing this it was beyond anything I could imagine and again like I was in a dream world.
Even now looking at the photo it feels like an absolute dream and does not feel real in the slightest.
I was absolutely stunned and speechless , I could not believe what I was seeing surely Not?!!
I was then given a tour around the new state of the art ward, and told what was Peter Pan ward did still exist but is scheduled to be knocked down in the next few years and how Panther ward has replaced it but staff still refer to it as Peter Pan ward and are often caught calling it Peter Panther ward..
To me it will always be Peter Pan ward it just cannot be anything other than in my eyes …sorry Panther…. it’s peter pan all the way!
After we went and sat in the family kitchen on the ward and made a hot drink whilst staff had their morning hand over and morning meeting. I was absolutely stunned none of this today had felt real ,I just couldn’t help but pinch myself and even then I couldn’t understand why I was not waking up from this dream.. Just crazy. I was utterly shocked with how generous everyone had been in contributing to this. Whilst we sat in the kitchen with a coffee we got talking to a couple of relatives of children staying on the ward or on the ward next door .Neil Mccintosh then put his head round the door and said “Neil’s just phoned he’s coming down to see you He’ll be here in five” well the excitement this caused me . This was music to my ears! I couldn’t wait too see him!!
Anyone who reads my blogs will know how much Neil Bulstrode means to me and how very special to me he is, I knew the chances of him being able to come to see me whilst here was not very likely as Neil had clinic at 9am but I also knew he would do everything he could to come and see me and well he has never let me down before and he certainly didn’t then either ! He had managed to find time before his clinic to come up and see me and oh wow was it a reunion..
I was sitting drinking my coffee in the kitchen area when I saw him walk past and instantly got excited and turned to David saying ” he’s here, Neil’s here and just getting so excited it kind of made the whole thing feel real with Neil Bulstrode being there.
Anyway he disappeared for a few minutes before coming into the room and absolutely grinning and putting his arms out for a hug.. well there was no telling me twice I was straight up and over there ! We got chatting with me this time around not being a shy teenager and now somehow being an adult, how that’s happened I’ve no idea and don’t even want to think about the fact I’m all most half way to 50 on my next birthday !!
It was so lovely catching up with Neil , Neil said how he had just been shown Santa’s grotto and how amazed he was at me organising it all and doing the whole thing. We then went together and looked at all of the donations piled up in what was their sensory room now turned Santa’s grotto and went to take some photos in amongst it all when another very familiar face came along… Gaynor!!! Gaynor had also come up and if seeing Neil wasn’t enough this was like double cherry on top with sprinkles too .It had been so long since I last saw Gaynor and it was so lovely to see her again , nothing had changed whatsoever still the same favourite nurse I knew and fell in love with all those years ago!
Gaynor joined us for photos along side Neil Bulstrode, Neil Mccintosh and Brigitte Harrison one of the other Microtia Nurses who although I didn’t know her when I was a patient at GOSH i’ve come to know as she follows my blog and facebook page and regularly gives updates to Gaynor about what I’m up to so it was lovely to finally meet Brigitte in person too.
After making a path through the gifts and all navigating our way into the middle of the gifts.With a lot of support from Neil Bulstrode helping myself and Gaynor up , there was no way I could’ve got myself up there with my dyspraxia if it hadn’t of been for Neil holding onto my arm the whole time.
I got chatting again to Neil briefly before he had to head off to begin his morning clinics and again got chatting to Gaynor catching up on everything I’ve been up to since I last saw her discussing my blog, sign language, signing choir, charity events, talking about the family , goals for the future etc. Gaynor asked if I had considered a career in nursing or working for GOSH.
I told Gaynor how I would love nothing more than to be part of the team looking after the children and families and being able to relate to them with everything they’re going through and how it would be an absolute dream and an honour to be able to work alongside the phenomenal team looking after me ,including Gaynor ,Brigitte and of course Neil Bulstrode. However a lovely an idea this would be , how I felt this could only be a dream as there is no way I would be able to do the job.
As much as I love children , want to now always be working in career in care and or helping people, I love children, I love GOSH, I love medicine like literally at work I love doing the medications, I’ve always loved doing first aid at Brownies and Guide camp, I just don’t have the mathematical skills to be able to do it, with being Mathematically dyslexic (Dyscalculia) I just would not be able to work out BMI, Height,Weight and then work out the correct dosage of medication to administer ,especially so in an emergency situation.I also am not the brightest bulb in the box so there would be no way I would be anywhere near clever enough , especially so working alongside the best of the best.I just wouldn’t want to get it wrong and mess up as this is people’s lives I would say children but of course it includes their families too and also I would not want to get it wrong and mess up and let the phenomenal team at GOSH down either.
Gaynor told me how I am clever and there must be a brain in there somewhere, I’m still not convinced that there is but it was kind of Gaynor to think there is ..I joked how it must be way down buried in my toes and must be the size of a pea! Gaynor also told me how there are apprenticeships based on the ward as Health Care Assistant (HCA) which is a role below nurse where you support and assist the nurses and how there is also apprenticeships in Nursing starting from September.I wanted to know all this of course but also really didn’t as David joked but very truthfully said not to tell me that I would be there in a heartbeat ,very true I so would.
I stayed chatting to Gaynor and Brigitte about everything and anything really up until they both had to return to their ward Magpie and begin their outpatient clinics .Before Gaynor left she quickly ran back to tell me how I was her favourite patient ever , clearly knowing from my blogs how I always have referred to her and always will do as my favourite Nurse .Those are words I will treasure forever , always lovely to know that both Neil,Gaynor and Brigitte read my blogs and follow what I’m up to even now, Noted I will always be on best behaviour on my blog and social media more so now 😉
Myself and David then went to grab a quick drink whilst waiting for one of the trust photographers to hopefully come and join us, as the team had not actually heard any confirmation from them as to whether or not they would be coming but had asked them to join us at 10 .It was nice to grab a quick drink as we hadn’t managed to have our first one which of course I didn’t mind in the slightest as it meant seeing Neil Bulstrode and Gaynor and I would not have missed that for the world.
After our drinks Neil Mccintosh had still not heard from the trust as to whether a photographer was coming or not so whilst continuing to wait to see if they would turn up or not I went and gave out sweets and chocolates that I had bought for the nurses on the ward as a thank you for the years of care and support given , and also as a little something for them working over the Christmas period and got asked to pose for some photos handing them out and I feel like some of this was possibly filmed too , I know some of the conversations with Neil and Gaynor were but I don’t have this footage and I’m not sure what else got recorded or photographed on staff phones.
There was a lot more chocolate than this ,I don’t know why I didn’t pick it all up ,but anyway yes there was a large cadbury hamper containing tubs of Roses,Quality street, boxes of sweets and chocolates, selection boxes of chocolates, amongst other sweets and chocolate and also a large box of biscuits.
The nurse in the blue uniform (sorry can’t think of your name) was actually also one of the nurses that looked after me whilst I was on Peter Pan ward as a patient after some of my surgeries! So this was lovely to discover and get chatting to her as well as all of the nurses and some of the doctors too , all of which were very welcoming and friendly throughout the day.
After handing out the sweets,chocolate and biscuits to the doctors and nurses and having a chat with them about how this whole thing all came about from starting as an idea up to being here today and chatting about life since GOSH, there was still no sign of the trust photographer coming and the children staying on the ward were slowly beginning to wake.
I was then invited to go round and not only go and meet the families but to be able to chat with them too BUT I was also invited to go round to the children and hand out some of the gifts to the children.I was absolutely honoured to do this.
I hadn’t really known what to expect or how the ward would want to do things ,whether they would want me to simply turn up and drop the gifts off take a few photos like I had and then go and for them to give the gifts out to the children and families today or if they would hold them back until nearer to christmas, or if I would get to hand some out , or how they wanted to run things as obviously not all children or families would be up to visitors for health and or other reasons.
I was absolutely delighted to get to meet some of the families and hand out gifts.The first patient I got to meet was a beautiful 4 month old little girl called Callie and her parents.They were such a lovely family and Callie had such a cheeky character and personality really watching everything going on.It was lovely to be given the opportunity to chat with her parents about why I was at the hospital and why I had donated the gifts before inviting them into Santa’s grotto and choosing some gifts to give to her which I gave her some bubbles, a talking iggle piggle teddy, a Christmas book , a peppa pig book and an Interactive Vtech console controller that teaches sounds and colours , along with some puzzle books for mum and dad too.It was lovely talking about Callie and why she was a patient and why she was in the hospital and talking all things drains and medical .Honestly they were such a lovely family and I am so so glad I got to meet them.They were also lovely enough to allow me to take photos with them and Callie and for me to share them on my blog with you all , so if your reading this thank you again !
As you can see Callie is loving the toys and gifts and could not wait to get into them and play with them 🙂 she was definitely a real cutie and stole my heart!
I was then invited to go round and visit other patients that were well enough and feeling up to a visit such as a 4 year old boy Jack who was superhero mad and so I gave him an avengers puzzle ,avengers activity box containing colouring book, stickers, avengers themed stationary set activity book .I also gave him bubbles and other superhero themed gifts, which he absolutely loved and his mum was taken aback by and asked me lots about my time at GOSH and how I had found it .
I also met a lovely little girl who was 3 years old and was waiting for her daddy to come and visit her also and was quite clearly missing daddy having to be between work, home with her older brother and spending time with her but she was so sweet too and knew sign language so I signed to her and her face absolutely lit up and she said “mummy look she signs!” and was so excited that I could sign and was signing to her .Again I explained to her and her mum why I was there and why I had donated the gifts and gave her some peppa pig books as I had been told before hand how much she loved Peppa pig as well as giving her one of those musical TV’s again this a peppa pig one and some bubbles and she was so excited by these gifts and immediently asked her mum to read her one of the Peppa pig books and wanted to play with her musical TV..Thankfully David was on hand to help in getting all those annoying wires and packaging off so that she could play with it.
I also met another little boy who was 3 and again was such a lovely little boy to meet and his family were really appreciative of me giving up my time to organise the whole thing as well as to go round and give out gifts and I was able to give him a large car mat and cars ,a remote control car and bubbles along with a christmas story book (you’ll notice a theme here with books)
I also met a beautiful 2 month old girl who was quite poorly so it was a quick visit but her dad was really appreciative of me popping in to say hello and to drop a few gifts off to her again I gave books for dad to read to her ,bubbles because what child doesn’t love bubbles and I feel it can always be a good distraction technique for young children if the doctors or nurses need to do anything to young children.
I met a 6 week!! yes 6 week old baby girl!! Oh my she was so teeny tiny!! and was again rather poorly but it was lovely again to talk to her parents about why I was here, my expirences at GOSH and to donate some toys for when she was little bigger such as a walk along dinosaur, water toys, again books and bubbles and they were willing for me to take a photo and to share it :
I was so honoured to meet so many lovely children and their families all apart from one were really appreciative of the gifts and me doing all of this off my own back.I was asked a few times if I was part of a charity or if I’d been sponsored to do this.Nope neither.Just little old me nothing to do with any organisation or charity or any sponsorship, purely just little old me a former patient giving back is all , nothing more nothing less.
I did not expect to meet as many families or children as I was able to .I literally personally handed out gifts to every child that was on the ward at that time. The rest of the gifts were kept aside for other children and families that were due to be admitted later that day or the coming days.
I felt so humbled to be able to give out all of the gifts that I did and to be given the opportunity to stand on the otherside and give out gifts as opposed to being the patient and see things from other views and just how welcoming everybody was from nurses,doctors, students, cleaners, the families and children.It was truly a magical moment that will forever stay with me ,there are no words to sum up how grateful I felt to be able to do this for them.
A lot of people have since asked me how it feels to have done “something so big” “so generous” but honestly to me it doesn’t feel like I’ve done anything big, grand ,generous or inspiring at all .I’m just simply doing me and giving back to a place I called home for so many years (1995-2016) so near enough 21 years of my life, there never been nor will there every be words to describe how much GOSH means to me both then and now , nor sums up the love,compassion and care ever.
Once I had finished handing out gifts and chatting to the families,children, and nurses it was time to leave the ward and let everyone get on with their day.On leaving the ward to make a few pit stops before actually leaving the hospital.I bumped into Callie and her family again and got chatting to them again and Callie’s dad said to me how this morning was only just sinking in for him and asked again what they were supposed to do with the gifts like were they theirs to keep or for the ward, I explained no the gifts are for Callie to keep and to go home with you he was so overwhelmed and shocked by this. Asking are you sure we can keep these things, yes very sure and explained how they deserved to have a lovely christmas despite possibly spending it in GOSH, as they were currently unsure as to when Callie would be going home as she had recently had surgery .
Once we left the ward there were two pit stops I had to make .I couldn’t possibly leave without going to find Neil Bulstrode and Gaynor again and giving them both a little something and seeing them again before going, as who knows when I would next get to see them again, plus I also wanted to go and get some more photos with them, this time on an individual basis and try to recreate some photos from my time in GOSH.
As myself and David were waiting for the lift to head to reception to find out where Neil Bulstrode’s clinic was being held and whether it was possible to see him again before leaving, who would purely by chance be getting out of the lift ?!
None other than Neil Bulstrode himself! good timing or what ! It was as though he knew I was heading off to look for him ,Neil asked where we were headed and so I explained how I was actually on my way to go find him and asked if we could get a picture together, As I had now returned to full elf… I had put the elf costume on as I hadn’t expect this level of gifts and had said about dressing as an elf mucking about and then my dad and David being deadly serious had said how I should do it..I’d travelled up in most of the outfit minus hat ,shoes and the apron and had put it on for the initial photos outside and then got too nervous to actually go through with wearing it… that was until David had told a few of the nurses including Gaynor that I had a full on elf outfit with me and was talked into putting it on (Definitely best decision)
Anyway yes so I got talking briefly to Neil about how everything had gone on the ward in giving the gifts out and asked what I thought about the new ward .Neil also told me how I made a great elf and I should’ve had it on first thing this morning ,Yes I defintely looking back wish I had but never mind the staff and children still got to see me as an elf and some of the children even believed I was a real elf from the north pole , which was super cute.Neil told me how amazing he thought the whole thing had been and how proud he was of me for doing it all and told me I’m inspiring (I’m defintely not, I’m just me Bethan Harvey) that’s all I do not see myself as inspiring or amazing or anything at all ,genuinely do not see it whatsoever.
before taking these photos:
Neil has defintely not changed in the slightest from our first photo together after my ear reconstruction. We had tried to recreate that photo which I will post below but I don’t think it would have been possible without some Iodine and some crazy hair on my part 🙂
Not much of a difference hey! I gave Neil some chocolates and said how I will forever be in his debt there are no words to describe how much he means to me or how thankful I am for everything he did for me as a patient and continues to do now into early adulthood, he’s always still there at the end of an email and always on hand to offer support and encouragement, I literally genuinely do not know where I would be without Neil ,such an incredible man and I owe him a lot .
I really do mean that he has seen me from such a young and I guessed really watched me grow, been there through the hard times with the bullying and wanting to end my life to the better times like now where I’ve reached a happy point and am being myself fully for the first time and trying to give back and make a difference. Neil Bulstrode is defintely one of my biggest supporters and is always there cheering me on throughout anything I do for charity, for GOSH, my blog – he was actually one of the first that knew about my blog and one of the first to read it and support it. Just everything I genuinely would not be where I am today without his support,encouragment,love and care .Neil is defintely one of my biggest inspirations and role models and I truly believe this is what got me through a lot of the harder times at school and why my confidence has grown and the self esteem ,well it’s getting there slowly but hey I’m getting there!
Even now Neil still continues to amaze me with the incredible work he does and to aspire to the best I can with anything and everything and I think part of why I do what I do is because of Neil and knowing he is there every step of the way.There are no words that will ever be able to thank Neil for everything he’s done how do you honestly thank someone who has transformed your life and been such a big part of your life? I will never ever be able to thank or repay Neil for everything definitely the best of the best.You do not get anyone better than Neil Bulstrode and there is nobody I trust more to operate on me ,even now Neil trumps all other doctors and surgeons hands down Neil would win a million times over, no competition at all.My only wish that he could still be my consultant and surgeon now ,adult services is nothing compared to Neil , no comparison whatsoever.
Anyway enough of that otherwise I’m going to be a blubbering emotional wreck and go off track even more so but yes I could easily write a whole blog about him.
I then headed down to Magpie ward to find Gaynor ,when we first got down to the ward I was greeted by Brigitte who was also loving the elf look and got chatting to Brigitte about how everything had gone upstairs on Peter Panther ward.Brigitte also told me how the hospital budget for Christmas decorations was very little to the point Gaynor and her husband had contributed most of the decorations that we could see on the ward.This actually upset me and I told Brigitte how had I of known this I would have brought decorations to do the wards up and promised how early next December I would go back and decorate the wards for them because it’s Christmas and well it’s just nice for the children,families and staff to see, so mission accepted.
Gaynor was busy with patients so we waited for her to finish up which wasn’t that long before she came over to see us . I got talking to Gaynor about the Christmas decorations and how I would be coming back and decorating the ward for them next year , got talking about how it had all gone upstairs on Peter Panther ward and just generally having a bit more of a catch up really.Again like with Neil we took individual photos together
Me and Gaynor also attempted to recreate our first photo together, but again this did not work out either I’ve grown taller since that first photo was taken but it was defintely a laugh attempting to recreate it hence the first photo, a lot of the photos one or both of us are laughing in.Defintely no false smiles on either part in the photos.
I love this photo with Gaynor I love the new up to date photos too of course, but this photo here is again another photo that is very special to me. Gaynor is the very first nurse I can remember ever looking after me at GOSH .Gaynor was always there for me on the mornings of surgery, taking me down to theatre, the first nurse I saw when I woke up and cared me on the ward the whole time I was in GOSH recovering from both my ear reconstruction surgeries , as well as Coleman fat transfer and was always the nurse that did my pre op assessments as well as the outpatient check up appointments.
Even on days I was on the ward recovering from surgery and Gaynor was not allocated to be my nurse she would still come in to see me and ensure I was OK. Gaynor is so special to me and is a huge inspiration and role model to me she is forever kind,caring ,smiling ,upbeat and positive and,absolutely the best and my favourite nurse there is and nobody will ever trump her!
Gaynor is a huge role model to me and someone I look up to and aspire to be like,If I could be half as incredible as Gaynor is or as loving ,compassionate and caring as Gaynor then I would be over the moon .
Without Gaynor I would not be where I am today and I genuinely mean that not just saying it at all again like Neil Gaynor has known me since I was little and has been there through the harder times with school bullying, wanting to take my life and not once passed judgement and has always been there to offer her love,care and support throughout everything and I know she too reads my blogs and was again one of the first to read ,support and back it and even now Gaynor inspires me.
Right OK enough I’m getting emotional now thinking about these two very special people .Dear me what do they do to me! I will forever be in Neil and Gaynor’s debt they have both changed my life so much and have been incredible from the word go and both have very,very special places not only in my heart but my parents too .There are no two people in the medical world I trust or adore as much as these two , the absolute dream team and I am so so lucky to be able to say they were part of the team I was under, I could not have gotten any luckier or anyone better than these two and honestly I highly recommend them both , anyone else nah not worth going too, these two all the way , and of course Brigitte too I love you too 🙂
After seeing Neil and Gaynor I still had one more thing to do before I left….
Now I had given out gifts to the children, seen and met families,chatted to the various different staff,caught up with Neil and Gaynor and taken those all important photos…what else could there be you ask?
Well you may remember early on into this blog I said about how a family had donated £100 right? and I had been left with the task of finding something to spend this on right? well I actually also had some other cash donations come in one from another family who gave me £30 and I had also recently had a clear out of some of my stuff and sold it on throughout the year ,I also had some money put aside as every year instead of doing Christmas cards I along with my parents donate the money to GOSH instead. So I had £222.67 so what did I do with this?
Well as you may have guessed no I didn’t go and buy more toys or gifts with it ,I am glad I didn’t as it would not have all fitted in the car.Instead I decided I would this money to of course be used in some way, and no not in my bank account or a shopping spree! I wanted to give a gift with this money still but not give any more toys or books or anything. I instead decided I would like to donate this money to one of the charity appeals called never far away:Essex appeal. This appeal is an Essex based appeal and well I’m from Essex..However the reason I chose to give it to this appeal is because the Never far away , is an appeal that raises funds to run the parent accommodations near to GOSH such as Weston House which is directly across the road,opposite GOSH so that families of children staying in GOSH never have to be far away from their children.
One parent is always allowed to stay on the wards with their child and is the case apart from in some cases where children have to be isolated I believe. Without these funds parent and family accommodations cannot stay open and are solely run on donations, of course the hospital charity helps, however if the hospital is giving funds to this of course it means less is going on wards,equipment etc in and around the hospital.
Weston house and accommodations like these are vital to anyone that does not live near to the hospital.I know I have stayed in such with my family before I had surgery and it was an absolute godsend to us as a family and I also know many other families that benefit from staying in patient and or family accommodations that would otherwise make it very costly and a lot harder for them to be able to get their children to GOSH for the care they need, such as the Agnew family who I am very close with and have been for the past 8 years , they live in Northern Ireland and so they use the accommodations for routine appointments so that they can stay the night before an appointment and of course also for surgery stays too,Without staying the night before would make it a lot more costly for them as a family having to find hotels and pay out a lot for this on top of flights across and would make things so much harder for them.
I also know of other families through the Microtia support group who also use these accommodations due to not living near London and it being quite a journey for them .
other locations near to the hospital where parents are able to stay include:
- Mezzanine Mothers’ Unit
- Morgan Stanley House
- Number 2 Powis Place
- Sandwich Street
- The Sick Children’s Trust
These accommodations cater for one parent where the ward is unable to for any reason allow the parent to stay on the ward , However if the patient is in an intensive care unit, both parents are accommodated.
My other reason for choosing this appeal is not only because of first hand experiences and knowing how important these sorts of accommodation are for families when their children need to use GOSH and it being one less thing for them to have to worry about , especially so if it is not a planned visit to GOSH.The other reason I chose to donate the money to this appeal was because this was a Christmas donation and for me Christmas is a time for family and what sort of Christmas would it be without family around you and more so if your a child in hospital but your family cannot be near by?
So before I left I headed down to the charity desk and handed over £222.67 in cash towards the parent accommodation so that another parent could be that bit nearer to their child. The look on the charity assistant on the desks face was a picture she could not believe that I had handed over £222.67 in cash .Now this may not sound a lot and in some respects it’s not because for one parent to stay in accommodation for two weeks costs £490, so the £222.67 I donated was £22.33 short of being able to accommodate one parent for just a week, had I of know this then I would have topped it up , However this does not mean to say that I’m not nor that the charity or appeal is not grateful for the £222.67 I donated, it just goes to show how expensive it is to maintain and to keep it going really , for me this pushes me to want to do more to raise more money to be able to accommodate more families next year.
It was so hard to leave GOSH and leaving Neil and Gaynor , so much so when we got back to reception whilst waiting for David to come back from the toilet I did sit there and cry just so many amazing memories and so many amazing new ones created today and honestly adult services have got nothing on GOSH, nowhere near! I just wish there was a Great Ormond Street for adults. I genuinely hope to see Neil and Gaynor again soon ,although they’re with me every day in everything I do it’s not the same as seeing them really.
Before we left I had to take a few more photos,Firstly with the charity mascot Bernard Bear who was also a fan of the elf outfit too
and of course with Peter Pan himself too
This Peter Pan statue has been here as long as I can remember right outside the entrance to the hospital and is one of the reasons behind my Peter Pan rib tattoo as well as there always being Peter Pan artwork around the wards and more importantly Peter Pan ward too ,so Peter Pan plays a huge part in my GOSH journey and story, I actually took a photo with this statue the day I was discharged from GOSH too. For those of you who are not aware J.M Barrie who wrote the story of Peter Pan has dedicated all of the rights to GOSH meaning every time a copy of the book is sold or a theatre production of Peter Pan comes out GOSH get the profits of this not J.M Barrie.
Christmas Day I had a Facebook notification from my Local paper with part of the follow up story on their social media and website and just after Christmas this was fresh off the press and hit the local supermarkets and news agents:
It was so surreal to see this, firstly it was a much bigger piece than I had expected and also it still had not felt real that I had really done this and even now still feels like a dream that I haven’t woken up from.I just am genuinely so overwhelmed and shocked at how generous everyone has been .I’ve seen other peoples charity ideas and campaigns come to life and really take off but me?! little old me?! Never I genuinely never expected anything like this , it was beyond my imagination to have even got anywhere close to this level of donations!
I will absolutely be doing this again next Christmas as well as decorating both Magpie and Panther ward with Christmas decorations early December too.I have also begun the planning to do similar at Easter and already have some Easter crafts ready to donate… actually that said I have also already received offers of help and donations and actually have already got gifts put away in the loft ready to do this all again next Christmas 🙂