“The charity helped us stay with our son”

Imperial Health Charity’s Hardship Fund provides emergency grants to help patients cope with sudden and unexpected costs resulting from their hospital care. These grants cover everything from travel costs, accommodation and household bills to funeral expenses following the death of a family member.

Emma Garlick explains how a grant from the charity’s Hardship Fund helped keep her family together while her son Jack fought for his life.

Jack was born with congenital CMV, a virus which can lead to problems like hearing and learning difficulties. He had been in hospital for the first three weeks of his life. Only a few days after returning home for the first time he wasn’t feeding much and began vomiting frequently. My husband Scott and I took him to our local hospital in Bedford to measure his fluid intake.

I stayed with him that night and I remember the machine waking me up. It was making a noise to indicate there wasn’t enough oxygen in his body. Then we were told he needed to go to the high dependency unit, and it wasn’t long before he was sedated and put on a ventilator while they waited for a team to transfer him to London.

It was 5am when we were put into the back of an ambulance and rushed to St Mary’s Hospital. They told us Jack might not survive the journey, so in the space of two days he had gone from being fine to being on life support with a real risk that he may die. It all escalated so quickly and we just had to drop everything and go.

‘We just had to drop everything and go’

When we got there I was walking around in my pyjamas. We had literally got into the ambulance and left, so we had nothing. We had no thoughts about where we were going to stay or how we were going to get around. We just thought, we’ve got to be with him because he’s seriously poorly. You just don’t think about anything else.

We were able to get a room in a hotel across the road, but we had no cooking facilities so we were just having fast food or anything we could find that was cheap. I couldn’t stay in my pyjamas so I had to go and buy some clothes and some new shoes. Underwear, toiletries, nappies for Jack, everything. It was like going on holiday and losing your suitcase. In the first couple of days it was easily £500. It quickly added up and after a few days we looked at the bank balance and thought, we’ve got nothing.

All of this time we were emotional wrecks. We were constantly worried that the phone was going to ring and they were going to say that Jack had taken a turn for the worse – or the worst. You can never describe to someone how that feels, watching your baby fight for his life. All you want to do is look after them, but you can’t. The last thing you want to be worrying about is money when your child is so poorly.

‘The last thing you want to be worrying about is money’

It was then that we saw a poster about the family liaison sisters, who provide support for families of sick children, so we asked if we could speak to one. Jo Williams helped us every day, coming to check on how Jack was doing, and she was the one who asked the charity whether anything could be done for us. We don’t like to ask people for money because that’s not who we are, we provide for ourselves. But if the charity had not been there for us we would have had no other choice.

When we received the grant we were sharing a single bed on the ward, next to Jack, because there was nowhere for us to stay. That money helped to make us more comfortable, mainly covering food and travel costs that accumulated throughout Jack’s time in hospital.

‘The charity helped us cover food and travel costs so we could stay with Jack’

After 11 days we were able to go home. The team at St Mary’s were amazing and we can never thank them enough. If it wasn’t for them we might not have Jack here with us today. They had our child’s life in their hands and if they had made a wrong call we might have had a different outcome.

We recently celebrated Jack’s first birthday and if I’m honest it was mixed emotions for us. It’s been a rough year and we are happy he is now doing so well. But it’s also the time of year when I think back to our time at St Mary’s and it does take its toll.

Please give whatever you can to support Imperial Health Charity’s Hardship Fund and make sure other families like us get the financial support they need.

You can make a donation to the Hardship Fund and help families like the Garlicks, who received vital financial support from Imperial Health Charity in their hour of need. Visit www.imperialcharity.org.uk/donate, select 'hospital/ward of my choice' and select the Hardship Fund when making your donation.