Christmas Appeal: Henry’s Story
16 Oct 2023, 2:41 p.m.
Five-year-old Henry from Yorkshire was transferred to GOSH for life-saving surgery when he was just five weeks old. Since then, he and his family have spent two Christmases at the hospital. Here, Henry’s mum Shevonne talks about his time at GOSH and how your support makes a difference to the children and their families in hospital over Christmas.
Santa's special visit to GOSH
Henry first arrived at GOSH on the 23 December 2017. It was a worrying and anxious time for the family.
Shevonne recalls: “We arrived at the hospital's Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU), and we were obviously full of worry and concern for what lay ahead for Henry.
“As we sat in the bedspace waiting for what would happen next, the most incredibly warm-hearted man, dressed in red, came and knelt by the chair I was sitting in with Henry. It was Santa, THE Santa.
“He was softly spoken and magical in every way. My husband and I had a rough five weeks just to reach GOSH with Henry, but Santa’s kind words truly gave us hope and strength to move forwards and hope for a miracle with our little boy.
“It was tough to know we wouldn’t be gathering with the extended family to show off our newborn child as we imagined we would on Christmas Day.”
Home from home
During the 15 months Henry spent in hospital, the Tracheal Service coordinated his care with CICU and the respiratory team. He spent nine months on GOSH's Flamingo Ward and was later transferred to Kangaroo Ward to continue his treatment.
While Henry was staying at GOSH, his mum and dad were able to stay in the parent accommodation next to the hospital. Funded by the charity, this accommodation enables parents, carers and siblings to stay together. For families who don’t live close by, like Henry’s, this is a lifeline. And it meant both Henry’s parents could be with him throughout the Christmas period.
“GOSH arranged for us to have a flat at Weston House for two weeks over Christmas,” Shevonne says. “We were able to live as a family with Henry for the first time since he was born, responsible for all of his care, medications, ventilation and equipment.
“It also allowed for some of our family and friends to come and stay with us over the Christmas period so we weren’t so isolated. We had a wonderful Christmas in the flat and will forever be grateful for the time we spent there and the confidence it gave us to be able to care for our little Henry bear.”
Your support of the charity can help bring Christmas to the hospital, making it feel like a home from home for children, like Henry, whose treatment needs to continue over the festive season.
Today Henry is doing well and continues to visit GOSH.
He still requires 24-hour ventilation, however as Shevonne explains: "We have worked closely with specialists at GOSH and [our local hospital] to take small, calculated steps to reduce or alter certain ventilation settings which has protected Henry's lungs somewhat from the ventilation damaging his one good lung.
“This is a great step in the right direction. Henry remains dependent on the ventilator but knowing [there's] a reduction in damage is a significant improvement and means a lot.”
Henry recently had a review and sleep study at GOSH and everyone was happy with his progress.
“He was dressed as Peter Pan during his admission (which he was obsessed with at the time) and made everyone smile. He always makes people smile does our Henry. He continues not to be fazed by a hospital environment either, feeling so comfortable around many different masked adults, no matter what they are attaching to him. He is a superstar.”
Henry started school in September 2022 and took to it like a “duck to water”. He’s now graduating from Reception into Year 1 – something Shevonne describes as a “big moment” for him and the family.
Home for Christmas
Henry has spent the last few Christmases at home with his family, joining his brother George in putting out mince pies, carrots and milk for Santa and his reindeers.
Last year, he went to his grandparents' house for Christmas dinner – joined by friends, family and even his great grandparents and a great great aunt.
The inspiration behind our Christmas film
In our Christmas film, we follow an animated version of Henry on his journey from GOSH to his home in Yorkshire.
Along the way, he's helped by magical stockings that represent donations from GOSH Charity supporters.
Henry collects more and more stockings as he crosses the country, passing landmarks such as London’s Big Ben and the Humber Bridge in Yorkshire.
GOSH Charity supporter Ivy gives Henry his last pair of stockings to help him on the final stretch of his journey home to his family.
Have a watch below.