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 is Janice Stevens, of Stevenage, whose 18-month-old daughter Ella was treated there.
Janice said: “I’m so pleased that my fundraising has helped the appeal reach the half-way mark. The team at St Mary’s Hospital saved my daughter’s life and they have also saved me – I couldn’t cope without her.”
Ella has been in and out of various hospitals since she was born at 23 weeks at Lister Hospital in Stevenage on 19 February 2015. She wasn’t due until June 2015 and has suffered health complications as a result, including chronic lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, problems with her gut, her eyes and one of her heart valves.
She was transferred to St Mary’s children’s intensive care unit in September 2015 after she caught adenovirus, which resulted in a serious, sticky cold but she struggled to battle it due to her chronic lung disease.
“I had never heard of St Mary’s before as it’s a long way from Stevenage,” said Janice.
“I was scared because going to a new hospital was daunting, but when we got there the staff were amazing. They explained what was happening all the time and there was always someone to talk to - they provide a level of care far beyond what you would expect.
“Ella really wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them.”
Ella was at St Mary’s from September 2015 until January 2016. She was in the children’s intensive care unit three times and was cared for in the children’s wards between those times. Janice has raised £188 for the appeal so far.
The total raised by the St Mary’s Hospital More Smiles Appeal, led by Imperial College Healthcare Charity and COSMIC, will go towards the £10 million project to redevelop the unit. The remainder of the costs are to be funded by Imperial College Healthcare NHS 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 in the 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.
To find out more about the St Mary’s Hospital More Smiles Appeal, visit www.moresmiles.org.uk.