Christmas is usually a joyful time to spend with family but last year, over 180 children spent at least one night of the festive period in hospital. One little girl who was too poorly to go home was Louisa, who had to have a life-saving liver transplant. It was this life-changing experience and seeing how our fantastic staff made Christmas magical for patients that inspired her dad, Jonathan Elford, to fundraise for us by running two half marathons, raising £700.

When she was just seven-weeks-old, Louisa was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia, a childhood disease where the bile ducts of the liver are blocked or abnormally narrow.  Just five days after the diagnosis, she had her first operation to open up the ducts, however Jonathan and his wife, Serena were told that there was a chance Louisa would need a transplant in the future.  Unfortunately, that time came seven months later in December 2018, when Louisa returned to the hospital, after a donor was found. The transplant went smoothly and she was discharged just a few weeks later in January 2019, although there have been some bumps in Louisa’s road to recovery, and she remains under the close watch of her consultant.

Having never had to spend any time in hospitals before, Jonathan and his family didn’t know what to expect. It was not how they had planned their Christmas, but they were blown away by the care, attention and effort that they saw on a daily basis, to keep the children and their families happy during their stay. Louisa even had a visit from the real Santa! That’s when Jonathan decided that he was going to take on the Birmingham Half Marathon to raise money for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, and to raise awareness for the importance of organ donation.

Jonathan managed to hit his fundraising target of £500, but after hearing about Louisa’s condition and treatment at the hospital his employer, O2, very generously donated a further £200.

Jonathan said: “Our experience with this hospital has changed our outlook on life, despite the lifelong consequences of having had a transplant.  We were absolutely amazed by the skills, empathy, team work and results that the liver team and Paediatric Intensive Care Unit delivered. Plus the extra gestures they made to ensure Louisa still had a magical Christmas was lovely. We are also eternally grateful to the thoughtful family, who made the heart-wrenching decision to donate their child’s liver and give our daughter another chance to live a healthy life.”

Miranda Williams, Public Fundraising Manager at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “We’re so proud of Jonathan for completing the Birmingham Half Marathon and raising such a fantastic amount for our charity. It’s always so heart-warming to hear how experiences at our hospital can inspire parents to take on challenges like the Birmingham Half Marathon to help give something back. The money will help to ensure we can continue to provide the life-saving work and expert care children like Louisa need.”