Mother walks 50 miles for More Smiles

A mother, whose daughter Grace died aged 13 months after a serious reaction to chicken pox, is walking 50 miles in her memory while also raising money for the ‘St Mary’s Hospital More Smiles Appeal’ to create more beds for critically ill children.

Natalie Bradburn will be walking from the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading to St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, on Saturday 26 March to mark Grace’s 10th birthday. Natalie’s route reflects the final journey that Grace took from Reading to Paddington via ambulance.

Grace was first admitted to the Royal Berkshire on 24 March 2007, her first birthday, after a serious reaction to chickenpox. She spent a week in the high dependency unit before being urgently transferred to St Mary's Hospital’s specialist Children’s Intensive Care Unit. Sadly, after a brave battle, she died three and a half weeks later on 24 April. It was later found that Grace had a rare genetic defect that meant her immune system was unable to fight the chicken pox virus.

Natalie Bradburn said: “This walk is a tribute to my daughter but also a chance to say thank you to the committed team of medics who were prepared to use a multitude of innovative treatments to give Grace the best chance of recovery.

“Every year St Mary’s Children’s Intensive Care Unit has to turn away sick children like Grace because it doesn’t have enough beds. An expanded and modernised facility will mean many more children will be able to receive the excellent and dedicate care that Grace did.”

During her stay at St Mary’s, Grace and her family were supported by the unit’s charity COSMIC (Children of St Mary’s Intensive Care) which provided a hotel room for her parents so they could be within five minutes’ walk of Grace’s bedside. They also funded the life support machines that Grace used. Throughout the whole experience, the team of nurses and doctors were by the family’s side, providing much needed comfort and support which Grace’s family will always be grateful for.

Together with Imperial College Healthcare Charity, COSMIC has now launched a major fundraising appeal to help create a bigger and better, state-of-the-art Children’s Intensive Care Unit at St Mary’s Hospital. The unit currently cares for around 400 patients, but has to turn away hundreds more critically ill children for treatment, who sometimes have to go as far afield as Birmingham because it does not have enough beds. In 2014, the unit had to turn away 233 children, more than half the number admitted.

The redeveloped unit will have 15 beds, almost doubling the current number, allowing more than 200 extra children to be cared for each year. There will also be new equipment, a dedicated parents’ room and a private room allowing space for doctors and nurses to provide emotional support and care to families whose children are very seriously ill.

Dr Simon Nadel, Children’s Intensive Care Unit consultant and clinical lead, said:
“We are grateful to Natalie for taking on this challenge in support of the More Smiles Appeal. It is always incredibly sad when a child dies, but by walking in Grace’s memory, Natalie is raising money to give many more children the chance of getting the specialist treatment they need to get better.”

The ‘St Mary’s Hospital More Smiles Appeal’, led by Imperial College Healthcare Charity and COSMIC, is looking to raise at least £2 million towards a £10 million total project being funded by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, COSMIC and Imperial College Healthcare Charity.

For more information and to sponsor Natalie’s walk visit her virgin money giving page.