When a child is in hospital, it can mean a family is torn in two - one parent forced to sleep at their poorly child’s bedside, the other at home looking after siblings.
For those with the most seriously ill children, it can also mean expensive, and long journeys to specialist children’s hospitals miles from home.
But a charity is helping Yorkshire families stay together at the time they need it most by providing a “home from home” on the doorsteps of Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) and Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
The Sick Children’s Trust runs Eckersley House in Leeds, alongside two others in Sheffield, which has been nominated for the group award at this year’s Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards, supported by Yorkshire Post Newspapers.
For Theresa Barber, whose eight-year-old son Luke was rushed into hospital a fortnight ago, Eckersley House - just a two-minute walk from the children’s ward - has meant her younger son Harry, five, could stay with mum and dad while his brother was in hospital.
Initially admitted with a burst appendix, tests revealed serious bowel complications which meant Luke, who was born with exomphalos – a rare defect in the abdominal wall at the base of the umbilical cord - as well as chronic heart and lung disease, was treated on the intensive care unit at the LGI in a serious condition before being moved to the high dependency unit.
Mrs Barber, 34, of Hemsworth near Wakefield, said: “Having somewhere to stay has kept the family together. When Luke was initially on the ward I struggled to sleep beside him, having a space at Eckersley House has meant we’re all able to get a good night’s sleep before facing what the day has to throw at us.
“Practically speaking, it’s also saved us a fortune on petrol and takeaways, as we can cook as a family in the kitchen, and get all the ordinary jobs like the laundry done.
“The staff and volunteers have been so wonderful and so supportive.”
Eckersley House manager Jane McHale said: “When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness or has a terrible accident, life for the whole family is thrown into complete turmoil. They may be transferred to a hospital far from home for weeks, or even months of treatment.
“That’s where The Sick Children’s Trust and Eckersley House steps in.
“Our ‘home from home’ is very different to the clinical hospital wards. It’s comfortable and homely, providing a place of quiet respite where families can relax away from the beeping of hospital machines and the hustle and bustle of the wards. There’s always someone to talk to, whether a member of my team or another family going through a similarly difficult situation.”
The support of the team at Eckersley House has been invaluable to Jess Dagg and Anton Moses, from Paddock, Huddersfield, while their daughter Elise, who is 15 months old, has been at the LGI.
The family, including older brother Cohen, two, stayed at Eckersley House for three weeks after Elise was transferred to the LGI after initially being rushed to Calderdale Royal Hospital when fell seriously ill in June, turning blue while the family were celebrating Father’s Day.
She had suffered a twisted bowel, and was in a coma in intensive care for two days. Surgeons removed 70cm of her bowel, but she is recovering well and was able to leave hospital yesterday (FRIDAY JULY 15).
Mr Moses, 28, said: “If it wasn’t for Eckersley House we would’ve had to travel every day to Leeds by bus as we don’t have a car. Without them the whole experience would have been far more difficult and we would’ve hardly seen Cohen.
“It’s been a long journey but the staff have made it so much easier, and now Elise is back to her happy, normal self.”
How to vote
The Sick Children’s Trust has been nominated for the Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards group award, alongside Follifoot Park Disabled Riders Group in Harrogate and Martin House Children’s Hospice in Wetherby.
Voting is now open and will close the day before the awards ceremony, which will be held at New Dock Hall in Leeds on October 14.
Eckersley House manager Jane McHale said: “While accommodation is free for families, it costs the charity around £30 to support a family for one night at Eckersley House and we are completely reliant on voluntary donations to keep the house running.
“On behalf of Eckersley House, the entire Sick Children’s Trust charity, and the 4,000 families we support every year, I’d like to say a huge thank you for nominating us for this award. It means so much for our work to be recognised.”
Make your vote and find out how to nominate a child for an award at www.yorkshirechildren.co.uk