The St Mary’s Hospital More Smiles Appeal, which has received support from the Duchess of Cambridge, aims to create a bigger, state-of-the-art unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington.
Among the people who have helped raise £1 million so far are former patient James Beckett and his father David, who abseiled 10-storeys down the hospital to raise a total of £630 between them.
James, now 28, said: “I owe my life to the children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital and I am so pleased to have helped the appeal reach £1 million. I owe them all so much, as do so many other patients that have passed through the hospital.”
James was ten-years-old when he was treated at the hospital after he came down with a very serious case of meningococcal septicaemia.
“I remember feeling very weak one morning before school - I couldn’t even walk or speak. The last thing I remember is my mum taking me to the doctors but after that everything becomes a blur,” he said.
“I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and I have seen photos of myself with tubes and wires everywhere. The next thing I remember is waking up and the staff treating me really well while I was recovering.
“As I’ve grown older I’ve tried to live life to the full, enjoying every day and every opportunity that comes my way and not waste what everyone in the children’s intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital has done for me.”
James has also cycled from London to Paris to raise money for the unit, as well as competing in the Paris and Vienna marathons.
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.