Fundraising at home: George’s family of fundraisers
27 September 2020
George was born with multiple heart defects, but thanks to the specialist care at Evelina London, he is now an adventurous six-year-old. To say thank you for his ongoing care, George’s whole family fundraise for the hospital.
At their 20-week scan, parents Hannah and Rick discovered something was wrong with their unborn baby George. Scans revealed that George’s heart had multiple different defects. He had an inlet valve missing on the right side, a very small right-sided pumping chamber, a hole in the heart and his arteries were the wrong way around.
The missing valve and small right ventricle meant that the left side of his heart is bigger than usual. With the right side underdeveloped, it was impossible for George’s heart to function normally.
Hannah and Rick went to their local hospital for treatment. But once they arrived, they were told that George’s heart abnormalities were so complex that the family would need to be transferred to Evelina London for specialist care.
“I had never heard of the hospital before and didn’t know much about it, but from the beginning, you could see it was different,” says Hannah. “It is a bright, colourful, child-friendly hospital and as soon as you walk in your eye catches the bright blue helter-skelter slide. It doesn’t really look like any hospital I have ever seen before.”
In the months leading up to George’s birth and in the days afterwards, the cardiology team completed a range of scans and carried out various tests so that they could come up with a plan of action.
However, at just six-days old, George’s condition started to deteriorate. The team had to act quickly, and George was rushed to an operating theatre for major open heart surgery. In the six years since then, he has had to have three more operations, including two additional open heart operations.
But even through the most complex and nerve-wracking of surgeries, Hannah has always felt like George was in safe hands.
“The support we receive from Evelina London has been outstanding,” she says. “All the staff have been amazing and caring. They see us as people. I feel George isn’t just an NHS number that passes through.”
Whenever Hannah’s felt particularly anxious about all of George’s treatments, the whole cardiac team’s attentiveness towards George has eased her fears.
As the team were preparing for George’s third open heart surgery, the anaesthetist came to meet George and Hannah before the operation with some bubbles to make the experience a little less scary.
“Every time George breathed out from inhaling the sleeping gas, the room filled with bubbles,” she recalls. “George loved it and it made the experience so much easier. As I kissed George’s sleepy head and turned to walk out as he was pushed into the operating theatre, the bubbles were still there brightening the room.”
Although George is doing a lot better now, it hasn’t been easy for him. Doctors will need to monitor George carefully for life and he may even eventually need a heart transplant.
But this hasn’t stopped him from being a happy and adventurous six-year-old.
“I never thought I would be able to hold my baby after my 20-week scan,” says Hannah. “But it’s thanks to the hospital that I have been able to enjoy six amazing years with George so far.”
George’s family have been struck by an immense feeling of gratitude towards Evelina London for all their care and support. So when they heard about The Cardiology Kids, a supporter-led group of families aiming to raise £150,000 for the cardiology department, Hannah knew she wanted to get involved.
Over the years, George’s family have taken on various fundraising challenges. George’s big brother Alfie took part in the Kia Oval Run when he was just seven years old, while Hannah set herself the tall challenge of conquering her fear of heights by scaling the Eiffel Tower.
“It was great to see the Oval and hear the crowd cheering me on,” Alfie says. “Somehow George managed to sleep through the entire event though! It was really funny, he missed it all, even the part when he got his medal.”
Although Alfie loved his fundraising run, Hannah’s didn’t quite conquer her fear of heights by climbing the Eiffel Tower.
“We were only in Paris for a few days, so I booked the tickets without really considering what I had signed up for,” she recalls. “A few days later I found myself extremely high up, petrified on a tower, with all of Paris beneath me.”
“It still haunts me to this day,” she jokes. “I was very grateful when I got back on the ground, but it was worth it as I was able to raise vital money for Evelina London.”
Shielding at home during the coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop the fundraising family for looking for new ways to support the hospital. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Alfie came up with his own fundraising challenge to keep him busy during lockdown. “I hadn’t done any fundraising for a while, and I was bored in shielding, so I thought I’d use the static bike and TV to raise some money,” says the 12-year-old.
Alfie pledged to complete a virtual 280km cycle around the world to raise money for Evelina London and three other charities that had helped George.
After previously taking part in large-scale fundraising events, such as the Kia Oval Run, fundraising from the living room was a bit of an adjustment for Alfie.
“It’s very different to fundraise from home. You don’t have the crowds or mascots cheering you on,” says Alfie. “No one was doing it with me, so I had to find that motivation by myself.”
But with little brother George cheering him on and donations pouring in online, Alfie pushed through. Over the course of his 13-day challenge, Alfie raised £2,800, almost three times as much as he initially planned, and cycled an extra 44 kilometres.
“They have given us more then we can give back and ever repay,” says Alfie.
“George is only here today because of the specialist treatment at Evelina London,” adds Hannah. “When you are in a sad, dark, lost place Evelina London comes and gives you hope.”
Do you want to fundraise with The Cardiology Kids? Whether you’re challenging yourself at home or fundraising outdoors, tell us how you’d like to give back to your hospital and get started with your challenge today.
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