Thursday, 28 July 2011
The weekend of the 8th-10th July 2011 saw a very different task ahead of the Cumbria RU Development Team, as they swapped their Development Plans for Bicycles!
Earlier in the year RDO Liam Nicholls had the birth of his second child Harry who unfortunately at one week old was taken very ill and rushed to the RVI at Newcastle. During the extensive testing by specialists within the Special Care Baby Unit the worry of where to stay was taken away by Crawford House, this purpose built accommodation ran by The Sick Children’s Trust meant a huge burden had been removed from the shoulders of Liam and partner Sarah so that they could focus on caring for Harry during this tough time. Almost 6 months on and Harry is coping with his Galactosemia through a controlled diet but many other babies who were in hospital at the same time will still be there due to premature births and specialist attention being required. This means that Crawford House will be providing a constant oasis for the parents at this difficult time.
This is what sparked Liam and team into a fund raising effort to support The Sick Children’s Trust rather than giving a smaller one off donation. To raise the target of £1500 it was felt that a unique challenge had to be presented and so the 265 mile cycle around all the Rugby Clubs in Cumbria was decided to be the best option.
The core team consisted of; Liam Nicholls (RDO), Martin Grealish (CRC Copeland), Graham Kidd (CRC Carlisle), Garry Holmes (CRC South Lakes), Kieran Marshall (CRC Barrow) and Ryan Young (Brother in Law of Liam). Support was provided by Trevor Richardson (CRC Allerdale), Russell Gainford (CRC Copeland) and Shelley Atkinson (CRC Eden) with guest riders joining in at various sections of the route.
DAY 1 After a crisp & early morning bus trip to the Furness peninsula courtesy of S H Brownrigg Coaches Egremont, the team got their final preparations in prior to setting off back up the coast on a journey taking in Hawcoat Park, Furness, Millom, Gosforth, Egremont, Moresby, St Benedict’s, Whitehaven, Workington and eventually Cockermouth where they would be camping for the evening. En route the cyclists were met my members of Millom RUFC and lunch was provided by Egremont RUFC giving a much needed boost to the team after a tough mornings work. The next main refreshment stop was at Workington RFC where some ice cold juice and mars bars were provided for all the team, these were key to getting through the final leg into Cockermouth riding into a headwind all the way. In the evening the team received an excellent meal provided by Cockermouth RUFC on completion of a very hilly and challenging first day. Seizing the opportunity to capitalise on some tired legs Cockermouth then challenged the team to a game of ‘Touch Rugby’ which was a competitive event despite the aching limbs!
Trevor ‘Monty’ Richardson who was in charge of logistics also managed to talk Sandra and Steve Stainton into cooking breakfast for the team as well, so a huge thanks to the Cockermouth Club for everything they did to support the fund raising effort. Due to his youthful exuberance Trevor also manage to damage his ribs during a game of touch which prompted a consequent doctors visit and a lack of activity for 6 weeks to allow some healing to take place.
DAY 2 Day 2 produced some very stiff team members and packing up the bags and tents took substantially longer than usual, however the smell of breakfast cooking in the clubhouse was the carrot for all members to increase their pace. After a substantial refuelling the team set off to Netherhall the first call of the day, Netherhall provided more refuelling which was very handy as this proved to be the longest day of the trip, again the hospitality of the club was excellent despite dealing with another convention on the club site. Silloth was the next port of call and then the up and down road to Aspatria was calling all riders! A brief stop at Aspatria saw the riders then set off to Wigton where lunch was waiting in the form of Harrisons Cumberland Sausage Baps, this prospect excited everyone and was probably the fastest 8 miles of the trip, no one travelled the miles faster than Trevor Richardson in the red support vehicle, as anyone knows ‘Pies and Sausage are his forte’! After stocking up on sausage sandwiches the team then set off for Carlisle getting caught up in a horrendous downpour on the way with flash flooding, thunder and lightning all thrown into the equation. However everyone plodded on at their own pace knowing that it would not be too long until we could get dry and warm again. The usual hospitable welcome ensued at Carlisle with a large welcome party but again the stay was brief to ensure we remained on track to complete the ride in a decent time. However the team still managed to take on plenty of Calories thanks to the efforts of Graham Kidd’s wife Suzanne. A brief photo at Creighton was the next stop before the team picked up the pace to cross into the Eden Valley.
Penrith was the next destination where the weather was beautiful, sunny and very warm. Some ice cold Lucozade and King Size Mars Bars courtesy of Geoff Matthews were just the tonic to drive the riders through the final 22 miles of day 2 towards Upper Eden. This was a stunning part of the journey with a lot of up and down riding but the sun shone on the righteous and the arrival at Upper Eden at around 8:15pm was a very welcome one clocking up 104 miles for the day. The news that the tents were not required for the evening was also extremely welcome as the club invited us to sleep on the clubhouse floor coupled with a BBQ to take replenish some more energy.
DAY 3 On the third and final day the team awoke to a beautiful morning in Kirkby Stephen and used the Upper Eden Facilities to make some bacon sandwiches and refreshments to prepare for the day ahead. The morning involved a cycle downhill towards Sedbergh and then onward to Kirkby Lonsdale around 34 miles which unfortunately contained a slight headwind! The weather improved as the day progressed and arrival at Devils Bridge in Kirkby attracted many odd looks as we arrived on non engined bikes amongst the multitude of motorcycles at this famous landmark. After unsuccessfully trying to swap mountain bikes with a number of true bikers we carried on to the club where we were confronted with a Harley Davidson Convention and more bikers! The temptation was almost enough to break a few of the riders but we decided to carry on with leg power for a while longer. Kirkby provided some more sandwiches for the gang and also a crossbar challenge which was won nonchalantly by Graham Kidd who had clearly been saving his energy for this task!
There was unfortunately no avoiding the main A65 road towards the motorway from Kirkby so the riders had to be extra vigilant. We did manage to lose one rider at this point, Calumn Howse who could be seen entering Kendal later on via the main dual carriageway and not the suggested ‘back road’, he was however difficult to miss in his luminous orange top to match his hair!
Looming in the back of everyone’s mind was the upcoming trek up Dunmail Raise after we had left Ambleside, but the team enjoyed the quiet and scenic ride up to Windermere & Ambleside Rugby Clubs with the latter providing some well needed refreshments and snacks plus a blindfolded kicking challenge which Kieran Marshall looked like he had been doing for years! He converted his first effort easily suggesting he maybe needs to do a bit more work!!
The team chatted to members of Ambleside / Westmorland Barbarians happily delaying the departure and hence the climb up the formidable ‘Dunmail Raise’. The ‘calm before the storm’ was a beautiful winding ride bypassing Ambleside Centre followed by the extremely tough ascent of the aforementioned Dunmail. Some riders were beaten by the sheer size and length of the pass but other just ground out the yards and reached the top eventually after what seemed like hours of pedalling. The reality of the situation however was, that we were less than an hour of completing the whole journey with loved ones waiting in the Keswick sunshine for our arrival. An easy rise to the east of Thirlmere and a sharp rise to the Lonsties area of Keswick saw the group congregate ready for the ‘Freewheel’ down into Keswick. The town was doused in sunshine and the breeze blew as all the riders accelerated down the main road hardly touching the pedals for the first time in 3 days! The final turn into ‘Davidson Park’ was excellent as families and friends welcomed back the team after a fairly epic journey, it was extremely emotional moment with all riders embracing one another in recognition of the effort invested in the last 72 hours cycling. Also on hand was a very alert Harry Nicholls welcoming all the riders back from their trek.
Keswick RFC supplied meals of the riders choice which was the most ideal way for the riders to finish and was appreciated by every single individual.
The Cumbria Development Team would like to thank each and every club who came out to support, donate and offer motivation and challenges to the members. Thanks also to SH Brownrigg Coaches, West Cumbria Learning Centre for their support. Final thanks to Liam Magennis of UK Screening Solutions who provided; A Support Vehicle, Liquid Refreshments & Energy Bars, First Aid Provision, Tshirts & Cycling Jackets and a £500 donation towards The Sick Children’s Trust.
Day 1 Miles = 86
Day 2 Miles = 104
Day 3 Miles = 71
TOTAL MILES = 171
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
Our daughter Honor was born in October 2010 and we were discharged from hospital and had a lovely few days at home.
However, on day five of life Honor suddenly became extremely unwell. We took her to our local Accident and Emergency in the early hours and after initial treatment in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, it became apparent that she had a heart problem and she was transferred by the CATS team to the cardiac intensive care unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London.
Once there she was diagnosed with an uncommon defect of the blood supply to her heart (ALCAPA) and since first showing signs of being unwell she had, to our horror, suffered a heart attack. Honor had her first operation at just six days old.
It soon became clear that things were not going to be straightforward and that we would have to be in London for several weeks. We have two other children, four year old Angus and two year old Lachlan, and at this stage we realised that we had to provide some
stability for the boys as well as being with Honor.
We were so grateful when a room became available at The Sick Children’s Trust’s Rainbow House, just around the corner from the hospital. The facilities here made it possible for us to maintain a degree of family life at a very stressful time, something that would otherwise have been impossible, or impossibly expensive. We heard of the charity initially from one of my work colleagues whose daughter had had cardiac surgery at GOSH, but the offer was made by the accommodation office in the hospital.
Our two boys were being looked after by my wife, Fiona’s, parents for the first two weeks of Honor’s time at GOSH but as soon as we moved into our ‘Home from Home’ we were able to have them in London for long weekends. Trips to see Honor on the Intensive Care Unit to read her stories were interspersed with visits to Coram’s Fields, Hamley’s and rides on London buses – something of a novelty for boys from rural Suffolk. Angus even started referring to Rainbow House as “our London home”.
Rainbow House gave us the chance to continue to act as a family, even at Honor’s most
difficult times. Our ability to take the boys to see Honor meant that they appreciated how
unwell she was and that we had to be in London because she needed us there. Their initial
fear of all the tubes very quickly changed to instructing their grandparents that they were
allowed to stroke Honor’s head but were not to touch any of the tubes as they were helping the doctors to make Honor better. We very much feel that being able to involve the boys to some extent meant that the transition to having Honor at home again was something they eagerly anticipated and when that time came, went smoothly.
It was good to meet other parents whose children were unwell in the house. Much
discussion ensued about our children’s respective problems and how we were all coping with the stresses of that time. In particular it helped us put Honor’s health in perspective
compared to some other children and families with major problems.
Knowing that Sandra, the house manager, was there on a very regular basis and that the ward knew where to call us at night was a huge relief to us too. We initially thought that we could stay with Honor 24 hours a day but it quickly became clear that we also needed our rest to deal with each day effectively. Sandra dealt quickly and efficiently with any questions we had about staying there and was a great source of support to us - sometimes a simple smile and “hello” can make the world of difference to a very bad day.
By mid-December, contrary to what we were initially told to expect, Honor had had enough of hospital life and decided she wanted to go home for her first Christmas. Our two boys were of course delighted to be back at home and welcomed Honor immediately as their new special sister. Without the ability to have them with us in London we feel this transition could not have been so easy.
Honor has made an impressive recovery with a significant improvement in her heart and mitral valve function. She may or may not need more cardiac surgery in the future; if that is required we are committed to going back to London and GOSH and are reassured by the knowledge that The Sick Children’s Trust will be there for us once again. We are hugely indebted to them for the care and support our family was given during this most difficult time and can never thank them enough.
Sinclair Gore, Honor’s dad.
Monday, 25 July 2011
On Monday 18th July, The Sick Children’s Trust held an evening with the Aber Valley Welsh Male Voice Choir at RGS Newcastle.
The 40-strong ensemble performed a mixture of traditional and contemporary songs including Nessun Dorma, Bring Him Home and the Rhythm of Life. The choir were supported by Morpeth based soprano Rachel Dyson who thrilled the audience with her beautiful voice, performing a mixture of romantic arias and songs from My Fair Lady/
The audience thoroughly enjoyed the evening, not just for the wonderful singing but for the unique sense of humour the choir added to the event. We hope to work with the choir again when they return to Newcastle upon Tyne in 2013.
The event, sponsored by Ward Hadaway Law Firm and hosted by David Haley, was a great success and raised £1200 for our ‘Home from Home’ Crawford House at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne.
With thanks to the following who kindly donated raffle prizes:
Dabawal Restaurant, Sainsbury’s Cramlington, The Demon Barber, Cake Poppins, Tyneside Cinema, Benfield Motor Group.
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Yesterday, The Sick Children's Trust held a party to mark the opening of the extension at Stevenson House.
We were joined by about 40 guests which was a wonderful turnout. Some of our key funders who contributed to the project were able to be there which was fantastic and they all raved about the quality of the accommodation and what we do as a charity.
Jeff Brazier had a great time and has promised to support us further. He enjoyed playing with the kids and made the families feel very comfortable.
We are so delighted that the project was completed on time and under budget and that we will now be able to accommodate an extra 150 families each year whose children are seriously ill at The Royal London Hospital.
Monday, 18 July 2011
On Saturday we welcomed 15 children and their parents to Rainbow House for a wonderful afternoon of games, magic and party food.
The families had all stayed at either our Rainbow or Guilford Street ‘Homes from Home’ whilst the children were receiving treatement at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
It was lovely to welcome them back for a fun packed few hours and to see them all laughing and joining in with the fantastic entertainer.
After some great games were played, everyone went down to the kitchen for party food where the kids enjoyed putting on a variety of hats, wigs and glasses.
Once the food had been gobbled up, it was back upstairs for the magic show which the children all loved. A particular highlight was the appearance of Mr Nibbles the bunny rabbit who totally stole the show!
The children all left with a pressie and a cupcake which were baked and donated by the lovely Lily Vanilli.
A huge thank you to the lovely Steph Docherty and Caroline Owen who donated this special afternoon to us. It was great to see them on the day and show them what The Sick Children’s Trust does.
Saturday, 16 July 2011
At my 16 week pregnancy test my doctor noticed that there was an increased level of hormone in my blood so they sent me off for an ultrasound to check everything was okay.
It was here that I discovered that my unborn baby had gastroschisis, a birth defect which meant my baby’s intestines were sticking out through a hole in his abdominal wall. The doctors told me my son would need urgent medical treatment as soon as he was born as his case was more severe than normal - his intestines, bowel and bladder were all on the outside.
On 14 November 2010 Theo was born at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle.
Theo was in intensive care for three weeks. During this time there was nowhere to stay in the hospital, so we were very grateful to be offered a room at The Sick Children’s Trust ‘Home from Home’, Crawford House. After three weeks one of us was allowed to stay with him in on the ward whilst the other continued to stay at the house.
Theo had three operations in total, one when he was just four hours old, then another when he was two weeks old. It was a very stressful time, it was awful, I couldn’t even hold my baby until he was three weeks old. But thanks to the support of The Sick Children’s Trust at least we knew we were as close by to him as we could possibly be.
The staff at Crawford House were brilliant and gave us lots of support. Everyone was really helpful and it meant a lot to us to have accommodation close by to Theo. To have to travel to and from the hospital each day from Sunderland would have been very stressful and we wouldn’t have been close by if we were needed at short notice. It was one less thing to worry about and, most importantly, it meant we could spend every precious minute with Theo.
Because of the fragility of Theo’s condition, it was also reassuring having the phones in the rooms at Crawford House, meaning that the ward had access to either myself or my partner at all times, day and night, should, God forbid, anything go wrong.
The house was also very well equipped and really was like a second home for us. We could do our washing and cook family meals in the kitchen with other families in similar situations to us.
Theo was at the RVI for two months and the support we received from the charity during this time can’t be underestimated. Thankfully, he is back at home now and has made a full recovery, but we really appreciate all the help we received from The Sick Children’s Trust during one of the worst times of our lives.