When I was 11 years old I was diagnosed with a ‘mystery illness’ – I had excruciating pains in my feet - doctors put it down to “growing pains” however, these pains went on for three weeks before I collapsed at home and was rushed, unconscious, in an ambulance to the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
The hospital didn’t have a children’s intensive care unit, so I was transferred in a special ambulance to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford which was over one hour from our home in Reading. My blood pressure was 170 over 130 and doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. This is what my family told me - I was fighting for my life - unconscious and on a ventilator. My mum and dad were so worried.
I spent three and half weeks in hospital with doctors performing nearly 30 different tests on me, some more than once. I was scared but the help and support that Ronald McDonald House Charities gave me and my family made it much easier and a lot less stressful.
I think the moment I realised just what the Charity meant to me and my family was when I first heard my mum, dad and brother Jonty had a room in the House. When I was transferred into the intensive care unit in the John Radcliffe Hospital, my parents stayed in the old doctor’s quarters on the top floor well away from me. They became aware of Ronald McDonald House Oxford the following day as there are no facilities in the intensive care unit for parents to sleep. My family were then given a room, two floors above my ward, with a bed, shower and communal kitchen and lounge area. Speaking to my parents now, being able to retain a sense of ‘normality’ got them through the tough times.
For me, knowing that my family was so close to my ward if I needed them made me feel so much better. There was a direct telephone link with my parents, so the nurses could call them at any time; day or night. There were many occasions in which I used this and it was very reassuring that when I needed them most they could be there in an instant. They were also able to escape to the House so they could make private telephone calls and they could sleep soundly, reassured that they were only a minute away from me if I needed them or if anything happened to me.
It was very comforting, and without realising it, it really benefited my recovery in hospital. Looking back, if the House wasn’t there, I don’t think that I would have been as relaxed or calm in many scenarios. On multiple occasions I wanted my parents at night and if they were in a hotel miles away from me, I would have been unnecessarily distressed and upset. I don’t think my parents would have coped without the room in the House because they would have been forced to stay in a hotel, or only one parent could have stayed on the ward with me. This is lucky because my dad wouldn’t have been allowed to stay on the ward because of his snoring!
My brother, Jonty, was seven at the time and living with my grandparents where we live in Reading, not fully understanding what was happening and not spending anytime with our parents. Ronald McDonald House Oxford allowed my brother to stay close to me too, which was very reassuring for both of us. It enabled me to spend quality time together which allowed me to chat to him about football and other things, allowing me to gain another sense of normality.
The House helped me in hospital so much. Looking back, I don’t think as a family we realised how much help and support was given to us by the House, or even thought what we would have done without it. You take for granted what the House gives you, and I don’t know what we would have done if it weren’t there.
My aim once leaving hospital was to raise £1,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities which is the cost to accommodate a family like mine for one month. Since then, I have helped raise over £15,000 for the House and I will hopefully continue to add to this number after I have finished my GCSEs this summer.
My illness still remains a mystery but I’m pleased to say that I have made a full recovery and have suffered no long lasting health effects. Since being ill, I have had some amazing opportunities; I am now an ambassador of the Oxford House and I also received a Diana Award for my extensive fundraising in 2010.
I’d just like to finish by saying a huge ‘thank you’ to Ronald McDonald House Charities for all the help and support you have given me and my family.