Celebrating the best present ever - Amelia's story

Just before Christmas, when she was four months old, Amelia suddenly collapsed due to an undiagnosed heart condition. After life-saving surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Amelia gave her parents the “best present ever” when she opened her eyes on Christmas Day.

On 19 December 2009 when she was just a few weeks old, baby Amelia suddenly stopped breathing. Luckily her mother, Jacey, was with her and immediately gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while her father, Phil, called 999. The ambulance took Amelia to the Royal London Hospital, where she collapsed again, and had to have a 30-minute touch-and-go procedure to insert tubes into her lungs. When Amelia stabilised, she was transferred to the intensive care unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital by the Children’s Acute Transport Services (CATs) ambulance.

Jacey said: “Amelia started gasping for breath and just went out. I’d never performed any first aid or anything like that but I remembered someone describing how to resuscitate a baby. It was terrifying but she started breathing. Fortunately I did the right thing.”

Life-saving surgery

Amelia was diagnosed with complete atrioventricular septal defect – her heart was beating too fast because it had a tiny hole in it. Surgery followed a few days later and throughout her treatment Jacey and Phil, were able to stay close by in parent accommodation, funded by the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

Jacey said: “The cardiologist explained that her heart had been beating so fast that it was burning all the calories she was consuming – the equivalent of running a marathon each day.”

“All the staff on intensive care were really compassionate, they had so much time for us, which was amazing really when their job is so busy. To seem really calm and always say, ‘don’t worry, we can talk to you’, means so much.

“It was amazing to have the parent accommodation so close to the hospital. I didn’t know something like that existed before. We stayed in our own self-contained flat, with a bathroom. It’s one less thing to think about; someone else has organised everything and you just go there and sleep.”

Spending Christmas in intensive care

Amelia gave her parents the best possible present by opening her eyes for the first time since the surgery on Christmas Day 2009, before being discharged from hospital on New Year’s Eve. Jacey said: “It was surprisingly Christmassy on the ward. On Christmas Day we came back to intensive care and Amelia’s bed sheets had been changed to a Father Christmas bed sheet; that was really sweet.

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“There was one nurse working on Christmas Eve who was tracking Father Christmas as he was going across the world. It was a good distraction and she succeeded in taking my mind off the fact I was in GOSH with my daughter on Christmas Eve. All the nurses were so kind and helpful and nothing was too much for them; despite them all working over the Christmas break.

“Amelia opened her eyes on Christmas day, which was the best Christmas present ever. Then on 31st December Amelia was discharged. We drove past all the revellers and fireworks in central London. Everyone was celebrating New Year’s Eve and we were celebrating having our little girl home."

Together at Christmas

We are the official charity partner of Sainsbury’s this Christmas. Check out the official Christmas ad and head to your nearest Sainsbury’s store to buy specially-created gingerbread men and film animation kits – 50p from every gingerbread man and £2 from every animation kit will go to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. You can also make a donation at the till when you shop in store – just tell the cashier how much you’d like to give.

All the money raised by Sainsbury’s will go towards providing accommodation for families of children at the hospital. Visit the Sainsbury’s website for more information.

With your support, Great Ormond Street Hospital can help more children like Isobel and their families. Donate directly to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and help raise money for:

  • Rebuilding and refurbishment
  • Research
  • Equipment
  • Children and family support

Donate now