The Wishing Tree Appeal is helping patients and their families at times of financial hardship at the five hospitals of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
Scott and Emma Garlick experienced this first-hand when they were rushed from Bedford in the back of an ambulance so that their baby, Jack, could be treated at St Mary’s in central London.
Jack was born with congenital CMV and developed a life-threatening chest infection only a week after his family brought him home for the first time.
His condition quickly deteriorated and he had to be urgently moved to the specialist children’s facility at St Mary’s.
Emma said: “You are just constantly worried that your phone is going to ring and they are going to say he has taken a turn for the worse. Any machine that bleeps you think, what does that mean? Is he OK?
“You can never describe to someone how that feels, watching your baby fight for his life. You can’t do anything for them. All you want to do is look after them, but you can’t. You are helpless.”
After five days in intensive care, hooked up to a network of tubes keeping him alive, Jack’s condition stabilised and he was moved back onto the ward. Six days later – after almost two weeks away from home – Jack was discharged and the family were finally able to return to Bedford.
He still struggles with cysts in his brain and the family make regular visits to paediatric specialists in London, but Jack is making good progress on his road to recovery.
The Garlicks are now fronting Imperial Health Charity’s Christmas campaign, which is raising money to help families stay together while their loved ones are in hospital.
Donations to the Wishing Tree Appeal will go to the charity’s hardship fund, which provides emergency grants for patients and their families at times of financial crisis.
Scott and Emma received a grant from the charity when they were hit by the spiralling costs that came with simply being by Jack’s side during his time in hospital.
The couple used the money to cover accommodation costs, travel, food and other everyday expenses that many families face when their loved one needs specialist care away from home.
“I was walking around in my pyjamas,” said Emma. “We had travelled down in the ambulance at 5am on a Monday morning, so we had absolutely nothing when we arrived at St Mary’s. We literally just jumped in the ambulance and went. We had no thoughts about where we were going to stay or how we were going to get around. We just thought, we have got to be with him because he is seriously poorly.”
The couple were given a hotel room close to the hospital for five days while Jack was in intensive care, but they spent another five days sleeping by his side in a single bed on the ward.
Throughout Jack’s hospital stay, Scott and Emma had no access to cooking facilities and quickly racked up hundreds of pounds simply to feed and clothe themselves.
Scott added: “We were having fast food or anything we could find that was cheap. All our money was gone literally in a couple of days. There were little things you don’t think of, like toiletries, underwear and nappies for Jack. We just had to go out and buy everything. It was like going on holiday and losing your suitcase. In the first couple of days it was easily £500.
“It all just added up and we looked at the bank balance and thought, ‘oh my God, we have got nothing’.”
Last year Imperial Health Charity’s hardship fund awarded £74,000 to help dozens of families like the Garlicks cover their living costs while staying in hospital at Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, St Mary’s and the Western Eye.
Every penny donated to the appeal will help to ensure that other families can benefit from the fund and stay together this Christmas.
Emma said: “At the time we were emotional wrecks. We were obviously worried about Jack but we were also panicking because we had no money. It is the last thing you want to be worrying about when your child is so poorly.
“We are just so grateful to St Mary’s and to Imperial Health Charity for everything they did for us. They had our child’s life in their hands and if they had made a wrong call our story could have had a very different outcome. If it was not for them we might not have him here with us today. We cannot thank them enough.”
Imperial Health Charity’s Wishing Tree Appeal runs until January 2018, raising money to support patients and their families at times of financial hardship at Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea, St Mary’s and the Western Eye hospitals.
To help support families like the Garlicks, visit our donation page.