The St Mary’s Hospital More Smiles Appeal, which has received support from the Duchess of Cambridge, aims to raise at least £2 million to create a bigger, state-of-the-art children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.
Among the people who have helped the appeal reach the first £1 million are the friends and family of 15-year-old teenager Vaishali Bance Suhayr who have raised £5,569 in her memory by taking part in activities from her bucket list, including a skydive and paying for a strangers’ groceries. They are set to complete more activities later this year.
Vaishali’s mother, Srija, of East Ham, said: “Vaishali is always with us. She lived by the motto YOLO (you only live once) even though she suffered from severe allergies and asthma which meant she was at risk of falling ill at any time.
“She would be so happy if she could see what she has inspired us to do. She has made so many people want to reach out and help others. Whenever we tell people what we are doing they want to help. As a family, we would like to thank everyone who has donated so far.”
Vaishali’s friends and family have each been choosing activities from the list. Her sister, Shalu, raised £250 by taking part in a skydive with her friend Saleh Khan.
The 20-year-old Middlesex University student took on the challenge wearing her sister’s tracksuit bottoms with her family watching on the ground.
Shalu said: “I have always wanted to do a skydive and after my sister passed away I found that it was part of her bucket list. It was a chance to do something I always wanted to do, but it was also for my sister and for the More Smiles Appeal, which felt even better.”
Her father, Harish, said: “It was really emotional to watch – we are all so proud of both of them. They both experienced that moment that takes your breath away that Vaishali loved so much.”
To raise further funds, some family members have taken part in a sponsored walk.
The St Mary’s Hospital More Smiles Appeal, led by Imperial College Healthcare Charity and COSMIC, is looking to raise at least £2 million towards a £10 million project to create a bigger, state-of-the-art children’s intensive care unit. The remainder of the costs are to be funded by the Trust and Imperial College Healthcare Charity.
Every year, around 400 patients are cared for in the children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s but it also turns away hundreds more critically ill children because it does not have enough beds. This means children sometimes have to travel as far afield as Birmingham for treatment. In 2014, the unit had to turn away 233 children, more than half the number admitted.
The redeveloped unit will have 15 beds, almost doubling the current number, allowing more than 200 extra children to be cared for each year. There will also be new equipment, a dedicated parents’ room and a private room allowing space for doctors and nurses to provide emotional support and care to families whose children are very seriously ill.
Currently, the eight-bedded unit treats a range of medical, surgical and trauma patients. It is a world leader in the understanding and treatment of serious infections in children including meningitis and septicaemia, as well as specialising in other life-threatening conditions such as seizures, asthma, sickle cell disease, severe injuries and helping children recover after major surgery.
Around 7,000 children, from newborn to 18 years old, have been treated at St Mary’s Hospital Children’s Intensive Care Unit since it opened. Patients have come from all over the country including as far afield as Devon, Jersey and Northern Ireland. However, the once modern facility has aged and staff and patients are now in desperate need of more space, more beds and up-to-date facilities.
Dr Simon Nadel, children’s intensive care unit consultant and clinical lead, said: “We are delighted to have reached this milestone in the More Smiles Appeal and would like to thank the generosity of all those who have brought us this far. To know we are half-way towards realising our ambition of being able to give exceptional care to more children and their families is truly exciting. However, there is still a long way to go. We cannot do this without the continued support of the public.”
Josephine Watterson, director of fundraising and communications for the More Smiles Appeal, said: “We are exceptionally grateful to the public who have given so generously to the More Smiles Appeal. Their donations will help save many lives in the future. But we are only half-way there and we will be continuing our efforts to secure the support we need to reach our target. There are so many ways to get involved and over the summer there will be a series of public events where people can make a donation. Every penny can make a difference.”
There are five general children’s intensive care units in London and 25 in the UK.