Imagine you are 7 years old and going into hospital tomorrow to start treatment to get rid of your cancer.
You don't understand what is going on, you're worried about leaving your friends or what is going to happen about missing school? Are your mum and dad going to be allowed to stay overnight?
So when you arrive to a bright, child-friendly and fun unit which has playrooms for you to make new friends, spacious bedrooms for you and your family and a brand new suite for when you need to have your chemotherapy, it makes a massive difference to calming your nerves and helping you respond positively to the 100s of visits you're likely to make during the course of your treatment.
But unfortunately our current cancer unit is not as we have described above. Instead, it is over 30 years old, and demand has outgrown capacity.
We need your help to create one of the largest Children's Cancer Centres in the UK. Please decide to help us today and we can raise £4m to improve the experience of patients, their families and the staff who care for them.
Many of the families we meet are overwhelmed to find out that they are being helped by the kindness of strangers. They feel moved that someone they don't know has been kind enough to make a donation to support them and their child.
Your support will help us create a light, spacious and purpose built unit for our patients who come to us from as far as John O'Groats or Lands End for the very best treatment in the UK.
Please help us.
The kids’ Easter holidays were like any other, a holiday to Cornwall, making sandcastles in the rain, car journeys with “Are we there yet?”, play days with friends, all our normal life. Little did we know that a fortnight later our world was about to be turned upside down when our youngest son Toby who is 2 years old was given the diagnosis of ALL-acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
It is a moment in time that we will remember for the rest of our life, being sat down and told your precious little baby has a life threatening condition. We knew what leukaemia was, but that was all, we had no idea on how that was going to affect Toby or what treatment he would have to undergo. You wake up everyday with a sick feeling in your stomach, with 5 million questions in your head, but struggling to get even one out. But thanks to the staff at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, we were hand held at every moment we needed them. They were there to answer every question even before we could ask them, they were there to help us tell Toby’s two brothers about how all our lifes were going to change, they were there to pass the tissues when the tears flowed freely, there hasn’t been a moment in Toby’s care and treatment that they haven’t been there for all of us.
Toby was only diagnosed in April 2012, so we are only at the start of his journey which will continue for 3 years, but in that short time we have experienced a vast array of hospital life from out-patient clinics, x-rays, lumbar punctures, echo, ultrasounds, blood tests, chemotherapy, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, care assistants, and much more. Whilst the treatment and care that we have received has been excellent, there is still so much more that could be done for both the children and families that unfortunately experience this as part of their childhood of which they will remember for life.
The staff in oncology clinic and on the ward are a fountain of knowledge and tower of strength at difficult times, it would make such a difference to so many families if both the ward and clinic could be upgraded to meet the standard of care offered by the staff.
Offering more beds in this specialist unit would save so many children having to be cared for on other wards that don’t specialize in oncology. Until you are in this situation you don’t appreciate just how many children are being treated for cancer.
Also for most parents, during hospital admissions the ward becomes a second home, and currently there are only 2 toilets and 1 shower for all the parents staying on the ward, as you can imagine this is not sufficient.
Every change that is made makes a difficult time more manageable for these children and families. Every penny you can donate or help to raise can help Birmingham Children’s Hospital achieve this dream and create a positive lasting memory for these children and families.
Thank you from Toby
Ward 15 Inpatient - October 2009 – January 2010 Aged 15 - Stem Cell Transplant
Ward 15 forms part of the 1970s extension to the old, beautiful Victorian building which makes up the majority of Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s site. This is where I spent some months of my illness, being given Chemotherapy treatment for Acute myeloid Leukaemia. Bay 3 was ‘home’ – not cramped during the day but with my parents wishing to spend the night on the ward during the tougher times, and other patients’ parents having the same idea… we quickly ran out of space.
Every morning and night chairs, cabinets, beds and TV’s had to be moved around or out into the corridor by the parents to enable the camp beds to be laid out and put away. During the day items brought in to help the pass the day had to be moved out into the centre of the ward for cleaning. All children who receive Chemotherapy like I did, suffer – and have the right to be comfortable and so do their families. With heightened senses due to my treatment, sensitivity to sound, light, taste, touch and smell affected my stay and my impulses. There was little natural light in the bay, so if you did not have the bed close to the window, you really missed out. I wanted to make things with my hands, but there was little room to disappear to and little storage for patients or parents. With 4 TVs in the bay itself, things quickly got noisy with families talking over each other.
There are isolation rooms and a high dependency unit as part of the ward, which is where I stayed following my stem cell transplant. The unit is indeed isolated and cramped, at the very far end of the department. I particularly remember the bathroom facilities up there, and how I had to fit into a tiny bath; hooked up to 3 machines with the water barely reaching reach my knees.
Ward 15 Full day weekly visits - January 2010 – June 2010 - Post Transplant
Following my transplant, I had frequent visits back for follow-up treatments along with other patients and families. Whilst the little ones had a play assistant who could provide stimulation and activities, although limited, there was nothing for older patients such as myself – I had French lessons instead. The surroundings themselves were a little dated and bland, with the lack of activity making days seem much, much longer than they were.
Compared to the new facilities for older kids, separate from Ward 15, that we discovered upon returning the difference was astounding. We were blown away – the new facilities are perfect for a young person and my time on Ward 15 was a world away from what I experienced on the newer unit.
All children deserve to have a comfortable experience during these tough times. Nobody wants to spend time here, but unfortunately some have to – so let’s make it as stimulating and enjoyable as it can be.
Please donate to upgrade Ward 15.
Have you ever had one of those moments, when you know that your life is going to change forever? It’s a gut feeling; someone squeezing at your heart and you know that from this point everything will be different… but you just don’t know how.
I had that feeling.
In July 2010, my 3 year old daughter Izzy and I crossed the hospital car park towards the doors – and I just knew. Part of me wanted to take her hand and run away, but instead we walked through those doors hand in hand and got the news chat changed our worlds. Izzy was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, and I crumbled. Literally. All I remember is walking back to Izzy’s room and trying all the way back, during that walk, to find the right words.
“Izzy, you have poorly blood. The doctors and nurses are going to give you medicine to make your poorly blood better.”
And so began her journey to make her poorly blood better, beginning with Birmingham Children’s Hospital – the place where we, as a family, as a team, had to place all our trust and hope. From the moment we arrived it felt like a sanctuary, and Izzy loved it. It’s nothing like you’d expect any other Cancer Ward to be; kids on bikes, racing around the ward area with mums and dads chasing after them; colourful, child-friendly décor and nurses who are simply out of this world.
After 6 weeks of treatment, Izzy was responding well, but shortly after her bone marrow test showed that she was “high risk for relapse”. In essence, it meant that Izzy would have to undergo 47 weeks of aggressive chemotherapy.
If I could have done it for her, I would, but to see how she coped was inspirational.
Some weeks she would have Chemo every day, sometimes be on a drip for 5 or more hours at a time. Sometimes the Chemo gave her mouth ulcers, made her sick; sometimes it hurt her legs and killed her appetite. Add to this monthly steroid treatment and weekly blood tests… the list is endless. Yet, her spirit has never dimmed. She looks forward to Chemo, loves the ward and this is down to the staff and the hospital.
They have always told us the truth. They have always been there to reassure us. They always comfort us, answer our questions, go the extra mile to help, they are saving my daughter’s life.
Now it’s your turn.
Donate some money, get your workmates involved, do a run, abseil, anything – make a difference to every single child that has to go through Cancer. The courage they show is amazing. They’re brave, strong, and extraordinary – but so are those that help them. We need to make the ward area fit the amazing levels of care. We need to make more space in the treatment area, where there are only 3 beds for the children, us parents only share one bathroom, the staff have a tiny room for their breaks, there’s not enough room for us all to comfortably spend the night with our children when they need us more than ever.
Please – give whatever you can and thank you. Thank you from Izzy, thank you from me, and thank you from every child that YOU will be helping.
Vicky Waterfield xback
My twins were identical in every way; they looked exactly the same give or take a few tiny freckles. They were so close and definately had the twin bond going on, they shared everything, their room, their toys, their cuddles and cancer.
Ethan was the first to be diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. It was the 27th September 2005 and my world as I knew it ended and I entered into a whole new world ‘The cancer world’
About a month prior to that dreaded day, I had noticed that Ethan, who is the elder of the twins, had started to look very different from his younger brother Kai. Ethan’s face had become quite swollen in places with lumps and bumps all over him. He had gone off his food and his sleeping pattern was very erratic. He just didn’t seem happy and was not himself at all. Despite taking him to the doctors several times I was still not convinced that it was the virus infection the doctors had said it was. Call it Mothers intuition but I just knew something wasn’t quite right and we took Ethan up to the A&E department in the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Upon his arrival at the hospital Ethan was jabbed, prodded and poked with needles, all different shapes and sizes. He had blood tests which very quickly confirmed the Diagnosis of Leukaemia. Ethan was admitted to the hospital and was hooked up to about 3 different machines. During the night he had his very first blood transfusion, the beginning of many. The following morning Ethan was taken down to theatre where he had his bone marrow test to discover the type of Leukaemia. The doctors sat us down to what we needed to do and what was going to happen to Ethan. The Leukaemia was very advanced and the doctors stated that if we hadn’t had brought Ethan into the Emergency department he may have died within the next couple of weeks. Because of the advanced stage Ethan had to undergo the hardest regime of Chemotherapy which would last 3 years…. To me that seemed like forever.
But it seemed like our world hadn’t finished crumbling around us…because Ethan and Kai were identical and their DNA is the same there was an 80 – 85% chance that Kai would also get Leukaemia… For me that was when I really lost it, these beautiful little boys were my babies and I was being told that I could lose them both.
We were moved into our new home – Ward 15, the cancer ward in Birmingham Children’s Hospital. I had never really spent much time in any hospital but the staff were lovely and very welcoming to us all. The Ward, however, was quite small and we spent a lot of time in the company of other families even when you might want a little space to yourself.
Ethan started his chemotherapy straight away. This consisted of treatment four times a week for the first year and then eventually reduced to once a month for the following two years. This was alongside him having fluids, blood transfusions, platelet transfusions, antibiotics; feeding aids….the list seemed to go on and on…
Hours, days and weeks all seemed to roll into one, myself and Ethan’s dad would take it in turns staying with Ethan overnight and then one of us would go home and try to resume normal family life. Of course this was never the same; ‘The cancer world’ affects everyone around you, families, friends, acquaintances and even strangers. There is never anything anybody can say to make things better; you just hope that tomorrow will be better than today and not as bad as yesterday.
During the first year, Ethan really didn’t come home a lot. He was very, very poorly, the chemo affected everything, his eating, his immune system and his whole body seemed to shut down. He had to have 4 operations to insert the chemotherapy tube as all the others kept on getting infected. He stopped eating, had no appetite at all and became so shrunken and underweight. Ethan became prone to getting temperatures, something which you get used to. His highest ever recorded was 44 degrees and it was at that time I got the emergency call during the night from the hospital telling me to come up to the hospital as Ethan was very sick and they had concerns that he wouldn’t make it through the night. He was in isolation and was being checked by the nurses every 10 minutes for his breathing. I will never forget the drive to hospital that night; I just kept on thinking hold on until mommy gets there. When I arrived and walked into his room, he looked up at me and smiled. I lay down on the bed with him, stroking his face and singing him songs. He somehow pulled through and yet again I was in complete awe of my brave son.
On the 19th September 2006 I heard the same words I had been told the year before, your child has cancer but this time it was Kai. Having to tell Kai that he too would be staying in hospital just like Ethan broke my heart but it seemed to bring a bit of a comfort for both Ethan and Kai as they would both be together again. Kai was admitted to Ward 15 and started his chemotherapy journey. He also went through the same difficulties that Ethan did, he had the same problems with eating and the same reactions to the chemotherapy and blood but like his brother he also found the fight in him and managed to pull through the difficult first year – Identical through and through.
It was amazing to see how brave my boys were…and are. They were both so poorly and I thought they would never pull through or have the strength to fight off this awful illness but then there were days when I would see them laughing and racing up and down Ward 15 on the trolleys that was giving them their Chemotherapy. The doctors and nurses would smile at them and I couldn’t have wished for better care for my boys. The help and support that everyone from the top consultants and surgeons to the cleaners on the wards were fantastic. Practical help, information, guidance, support, a shoulder to cry on, tissues, you name it, it was all there. The Birmingham Children’s Hospital is a big part of both Ethan and Kai’s childhood, they won’t forget the time that they spent there, good or bad, but it has made them the children that they are today…. Full of life with a bounce in their step and not afraid of anything!!
The Cancer team have done such amazing things for my family and the fact they do this for hundreds of families is even more amazing. If anyone deserves your help these doctors and nurses do, they are saving lives.
Having a new centre would mean so much to us. I know how important it is to have a proper place for your own family time. I know how important it is to have better facilities for the children to be distracted by, and how important it is for each and every family member on that unit to feel as comfortable as possible. That was our second home for over 3 years and it needs to feel like a home because in there you go through some very scary moments, despite how great the staff are. Please support this appeal and help families like mine.