The Sick Children's Trust Lifeline


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The Sick Children's Trust

Actor Dominic West appeals on behalf of The Sick Children's Trust, a charity that provides free accommodation for families with seriously ill children.


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For any child with an illness,

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staying in hospital can be a frightening experience.

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It's a feeling I remember all too well.

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When I was three years old I had an illness

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which meant I had

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to spend a lot of time at Sheffield Children's Hospital.

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I was fortunate in that my family lived nearby

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and were able to come in and look after me.

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Unfortunately not all children are so lucky

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to have their families nearby when they're seriously ill in hospital.

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And as a parent I know how terrible it would be

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to be unable to be in hospital with my child when they needed me most.

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This is Elsie.

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Just after her second birthday she was rushed into hospital

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when her health suddenly deteriorated.

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Doctors soon confirmed her family's worst fears.

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She was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia.

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My husband and I

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just broke down into tears,

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which was the beginning of a lot of tears.

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I was completely terrified for my daughter.

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We immediately said, "Is she going to die?"

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And the doctors won't say no to that question,

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but we had to try and be calm

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because we had a very young child, and she was frightened.

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Elsie's best chance of survival

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meant she needed to be rushed to a specialist unit

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70 miles away at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

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The treatment would involve four or five rounds

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of very hard-hitting chemotherapy.

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Which would mean pretty much continuous hospitalisation

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for a period of six months.

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She was in an absolutely terrible state.

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There was so many nights where I thought

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she's not going to make it through tonight, she's too weak.

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Not only did the family have to come to terms with Elsie's illness,

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but how they would cope practically and financially

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to be constantly by their daughter's side,

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miles away from home.

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We felt absolutely that as parents we had to be there,

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by her bedside.

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'Are you listening to Teddy's chest?'

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And to complicate things

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I was nearly eight months pregnant at the time,

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and we had a business,

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so we had to think about how we could pay our bills.

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It just seemed totally insurmountable,

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just didn't know what to do.

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For many children with a serious illness, the best possible care

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is in specialist centres around the country.

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And this may involve travelling to hospitals

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that are a long way from home

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adding an extra burden

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to what is already an extremely distressing time.

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This is where The Sick Children's Trust helps.

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They are a charity working to keep families together

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by providing free home-from-home accommodation.

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Last year eight-year-old Enna was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

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Me and my husband

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were just crying and cuddling her,

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and you are scared, you're numb, and you can't stop crying

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because you think, "How long have I got left with her?"

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We thought she was going to die.

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I'm sorry.

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Just two days later Enna underwent surgery to remove the tumour.

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But this was just the start of the family's ordeal.

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It would be a 16-month process,

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and Enna would have to have radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

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It's horrendous to see your child be strapped into

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a plastic mask that is completely immovable.

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It is not nice.

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And Enna wanted Mum and Dad there with her,

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she wanted us both to be very close.

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As an out-patient Enna would initially have to travel

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for miles every day from home to undergo treatment.

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In between her being sick and throwing up,

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travelling up and down in a car

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would not have made her feel any better at all.

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So of course practicalities start jumping in and you are thinking,

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"Where are we going to stay? What are we going to do?

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"How much would it cost us as a family?"

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They faced the prospect of not being able

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to stay together as a family to support their daughter

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when she needed them.

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But fortunately there was a charity close at hand to help.

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The Sick Children's Trust

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have eight houses like this one across the UK

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that can accommodate up to 116 families a night,

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every day of the year.

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They provide a warm, comfortable and relaxing environment

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for families who need to be near their child every step of the way.

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Joy is the house manager at Acorn House,

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just one of The Sick Children's Trust's

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homes from home at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

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Acorn House is a sanctuary for families,

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because it gives them their private room

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where they can gather their thoughts,

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there is a lovely lounge,

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playroom,

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huge big kitchen-cum-dining room.

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It gives them

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reassurance they are minutes away from their sick child

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when they're going through such a traumatic time.

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As well as providing practical assistance

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Jo and her team are on hand to provide emotional support.

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Whether they want to cry, share their experience with us,

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or just sit and relax and have a cup of coffee,

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we are here whatever they need.

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They can talk to other families that are in the same situation,

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and that is reassuring for them, because they realise

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they are not the only ones going through this.

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Over the last 30 years

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The Sick Children's Trust has helped over 40,000 families

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offering support and stability

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and enabling them to stay together

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at exactly the time they need each other the most.

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The Sick Children's Trust enabled Charlotte and her family

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to stay by Elsie's side for the entire time

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she was being treated at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

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I can see you.

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Without the Sick Children's Trust

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I just don't know how we could have survived that period.

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Emotionally, financially, practically.

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Let me see some pictures.

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And during their stay

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Acorn House became the first home for their new baby.

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They call it a home from home, and it really is.

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It was about being right there, all together, as a family.

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And that's what The Sick Children's Trust enabled us to do.

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And that's how we got through.

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After nine months of treatment

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Elsie has now made a remarkable recovery.

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She's just learnt to swim.

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She just did all the races at sports day.

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She's a really amazing little girl.

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For 16 months every time Enna needed treatment

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The Sick Children's Trust was there for her and her family.

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They just said, "There's a room, it's fine, come and stay with us,"

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and it makes the whole thing a little bit more bearable.

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And they sort of go through the journey with you.

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They're just amazing people.

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Just last month Enna finished her final treatment of chemotherapy,

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and is now well on the way to recovery.

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We're just looking forward to getting on with our lives,

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and we just so grateful that she's going to be OK,

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we can't explain really how grateful we are

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to everybody who has helped us along the way.

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The Sick Children's Trust helps over 3,000 families a year,

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but with their waiting list growing every day

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the charity desperately needs to open more houses

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to help families stay together,

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and this is where you can make a real difference.

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Please go to the website bbc.co.uk/lifeline

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where you can make a donation.

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If you don't have access to the internet than call 0800 011 011.

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And if you can't get through, please keep trying.

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You can also donate £10 by texting GIVE to 70121.

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Texts costs £10 plus your standard network message charge

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and the whole £10 goes to The Sick Children's Trust.

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Full terms and conditions can be found at bbc.co.uk/lifeline.

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Telephone calls are free from most land lines,

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some networks and mobile operators will charge for these calls.

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Or if you'd like to post a donation

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please make your cheque payable to The Sick Children's Trust

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and send it to Freepost, BBC Lifeline Appeal,

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writing The Sick Children's Trust on the back of the envelope.

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Remember, if you are a UK taxpayer

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the charity can collect Gift Aid on your donation worth another 25%.

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Just send in a note

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to say you want your donation to be subject Gift Aid

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and include the date, your full name and address.

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Thank you very much.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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The Wire star and BAFTA award-winning actor Dominic West makes an appeal on behalf of the Sick Children's Trust, a charity that provides free accommodation for families with seriously ill children.

The film features Elsie who, when she was two years old, was suddenly diagnosed with a rare form of child leukaemia and rushed to a specialist unit miles away from home. For six months, Elsie's family stayed in one of the charity's 'homes from home' so that they could be together by Elsie's bedside whilst she underwent chemotherapy. Elsie has now made a good recovery and is back at school.

To donate, please call 0800 011 011, go online at www.bbc.co.uk/lifeline or send donations to The Sick Children's Trust, Freepost, BBC Lifeline Appeal.