This year, Christmas is set to be a little different to usual as coronavirus puts paid to the festive celebrations we’re used to.
But for an Edinburgh mum, every Christmas since her son was born has been a time fraught with worry and uncertainty.
Claire Narrie’s son Josh, age 3, was born with a complex heart condition and has spent much of his short life in and out of intensive care, spending Christmas each year in hospital.
Claire is now backing an Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC) appeal, hoping to help make it as magical a time as possible for others in their position.
She said: “When Josh was born in 2017, he spent six months in intensive care, so we knew his first Christmas would be in hospital.
“In December 2018 though, things were looking good. We allowed ourselves to get excited to finally be at home for Christmas. Josh had been invited to some little parties with his friends, we had bought lots of presents and we were desperate to take him to see the Christmas lights in town – something we’d tried to do the year before but missed out on.
“But Josh became really unwell and we found ourselves back in intensive care at the Sick Kids. He had a common virus but because of his heart, lung and immune system problems, it floored him.
“It’s devastating to be robbed of Christmas. Every year, as Josh’s friends have put their Christmas jammies on and laid out mince pies and milk for Santa, we have sat at our little boy’s bedside, willing him to keep fighting.”
Claire and husband John will always be grateful for all the care and support both they and Josh received while in hospital over the festive period.
Now, the family are aiming to “give Christmas back” to those children and young people who are unfortunately too ill to spend it at home this year.
Claire said: “When you’re in hospital, everything goes on hold. Time just stops. Your baby is all that matters. Especially when you’re upstairs in critical care, it is isolating and the days are long. But the support provided by ECHC has made such a difference to every Christmas we have spent in hospital.
“The activities and visitors arranged by the charity throughout December have always given us things to look forward to, and break up the day. On the most difficult days, we have left the hospital feeling uplifted.
“Josh had met the Scotland Rugby Team in the past and when they came to the ward they remembered him and spent special time with him. Christina the ballerina was wonderful and he loved Rhys the musician who sang songs with him. When he was well enough, we would go for little walks and he loved to find the charity’s Living Advent Calendar Doors hidden around the hospital.
“This year, we are desperate for Josh to be well and at home but the anxiety is crippling. We really hope we don’t have to spend another Christmas in hospital but we know if we do, ECHC will be there for us and all the children like Josh. Alongside the amazing NHS teams, they’ll make sure that families won’t miss out on the magic and joy. The kids will be treated like the heroes they are.”
After such a difficult year for everyone, especially those with pre-existing health conditions, the work of ECHC feels more important than ever.
Even in the darkest of years, it’s hoped that the joy of the festive season can still shine through.
Victoria Buchanan, from ECHC, said: “We need help now to give Christmas back to children at the Sick Kids. Due to the pandemic, restricted visiting is in place on hospital wards, which means no visits from siblings, grandparents or friends.
“With all the worry and limitations of lockdown and shielding for thousands of families this year, it is more important than ever that we ensure no child or young person in hospital misses out on the joy of the festive season.”
Every year, ECHC makes a living advent calendar around the wards with a new surprise behind each door.
And despite Covid, it’s hoped that some activities will still be able to go ahead.
Victoria added: “It’s going to be a little different this year as we are unfortunately unable to have visits from large groups, such as Edinburgh’s football and rugby teams, but we are determined to make this the biggest and best Christmas yet, with everything from a real ballerina to festive magic sessions and a samba band!
“We also fund the parents’ accommodation so families can stay close to their children at Christmas, the hospital play team and Christmas gifts to make sure treats and distractions are always available to bring smiles and comfort.
“We rely solely on donations in order to do this. Please help by making a donation to ECHC this Christmas. You could give a child in hospital their Christmas back.”
To donate now to ECHC’s Give Christmas Back appeal, visit echcharity.org/christmas
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