I first met Cheryl at Family First on a Friday, we had been given two days notice that my daughter had got a bed at Burlesdon House, which is a specialised unit in Southampton. She was due to stay for 8 weeks. Cheryl offered some very helpful information about the area, Ronald McDonalds and the Jersey liaison team based at the hospital.
My daughter and I arrived on the red eye flight to Southampton on the Monday morning. Macy was admitted and due to the strict visiting rules at Burlesdon House I was unable to stay with her. Unfortunately the Ronald MacDonald’s House was full. Cheryl had advised that alternative accommodation was available through the hospital. I managed to obtain a room, however on arrival the accommodation was beyond basic with shared bathroom facilities. This probably wouldn’t have been so bad had the house offered single accomadation with Wifi which was essential for the purpose of staying in touch with my family. Within 5 minutes of arriving a lady also checked into the room who had just been discharged from hospital and needed to sleep. Our beds were within touching distance. I was so upset at this point as neither of us had any privacy and I felt unable to phone and speak with my family due to the lady resting in the next bed. Being emotional in front of a stranger is not comfortable, at this point I left the room.
I popped into town to pick up a Three Sim card for my phone, as advised by Cheryl as roaming charges are expensive and having no access to Wifi either at the room or the hospital. My mom and stepdad drove to Southampton (they live in Oxford) and we went to visit Macy. At around 4.30 it became apparent that there would be no room at Ronald MacDonald’s for the next couple of days. I had to hire a car and drive back with my mom to Oxford and return to Southampton the following day.
On the Second day I was an emotional wreck there still wasn’t any room at Ronald MacDonalds. I phoned Cheryl in tears, not knowing what to do. We still had to pay for the rent and bills at home and I had already hired a car, so really couldn’t afford to stay at a hotel. Cheryl was amazing she got in touch with the Grace Crocker Foundation and arrange for a cheque for the sum of £1,500.00 and found me a hotel near by. This cheque was a life line, it paid for the car hire and hotel room which offered me security. It also meant that i was able to buy food and essentials for Macy without the worry of not being able to pay the bills at home. I did not get a room at Ronald MacDonald’s for the remainder of the week. As Macy was discharged from Bursledon House every Friday (the unit shuts over the weekend) every Monday I was in the same situation of waiting for accommodation to become available at Ronald MacDonalds. The money meant that if a room was not available I could check into a Hotel. It also meant that at the weekends Macy and I could travel to see my Mom in Oxford.
Once again Cheryl had advised me of the Jersey Liaison Team located at the Hospital. After two weeks we were both missing our family desperately. I have never been without my children for longer than an overnight stay. I went to see the Jersey Liaison Team about the possibility of Macy and I coming home for the weekend. However, I was informed that they could not help as the jersey travel office will only supply flights to and from appointments and would only provide a flight home once she had been there a month. A whole month without my family being together was just heartbreaking. I phoned Cheryl who got in touch with the travel office and complain on our behalf. At one point I was advised that I was meant to leave Macy in Southampton, as they couldn’t support families accommodation or travel for the families of those children receiving treatment at Southampton. My husband got in contact with The Grace Crocker Foundation and again they came to our rescue, they would reimburse any flights that we booked. So we were able to come home for the weekend. Macy had a tea party with a few of her friends as a reward for all the good work and I was able to snuggle up to my little boy who was just 4 at the time. My husband and I were able to sit and talk to one another and provide each other with the support that we both needed, as its just as hard for the people sitting at home as it is for those stuck at the hospital.
We returned to Southampton on the Monday morning feeling revived and knowing that in couple of weeks time it would be easter, at which point Nick and Sebastian would fly over to Southampton to see us. Once again the flights and the car hire was reimbursed by the Grace Crocker Foundation. We spent a lovely four days together. Which made the remaining time we had left bearable. The times together really helped keep everyone going and Macy was able to focus on her treatment, as she knew she would be seeing her family sooner rather than later.
We as a family will never be able to thank you enough because without the support of both The Grace Crocker Foundation and Family First I have no idea what we would have done.