Key workers supporting key workers: Kevin and Selena’s cycling fundraiser

09 November 2020

Key workers Kevin and Selena cycled 300 miles while fundraising for Evelina London. Having seen how hard doctors worked to diagnose and save their youngest daughter Holly when she got childhood epilepsy, they knew they wanted to give back to their fellow key workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Holly at Evelina London receiving treatment
Holly at Evelina London receiving treatment

Holly’s story

At seven months old, Holly seemed to be a healthy, happy baby, until one day she collapsed at home. Selena, Holly’s mum, remembers how quickly an ordinary day turned into a nightmare.

Selena thought Holly was choking and rushed her daughter to the doctor’s surgery. A doctor checked her over but sent Holly home as she seemed fine aside from some lethargy. But it quickly became apparent that all was not well when Holly collapsed again.

“About half an hour after we’d left the doctor’s surgery, Holly went blue and floppy again. Then all of a sudden, she went really rigid and was violently shaking on the floor,” says Selena.

Holly was rushed to their local hospital, but by the time they arrived Holly’s fits had stopped.

“I remember she was sitting on our lap, smiling laughing, blowing bubbles in our faces. You wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with her,” says Selena. “But then, just as the doctors were about to discharge her, she went blue and started shaking again.”

Holly was admitted and put on medication, but when the seizures got progressively worse and more frequent, the doctors decided she needed specialist care at Evelina London.

She was transferred to Savannah Ward where the neurology team got to work trying to find out what was causing her seizures.

“Within 24 hours of being at Evelina London, they’d arranged a million and one blood tests, electroencephalograms (EEGs) and ultrasounds,” says Selena.

“The care she received from the moment she got there to the moment she left was absolutely outstanding,” says Kevin, Holly’s dad. “Everyone we ever met throughout the process cared the same way. Nothing was too much trouble for them if it helped us.”

During their time on the ward, Kevin and Selena were touched to see the staff going out of their way to make sure that they were coping while their daughter was getting treated.

“The play specialists would come and take Holly away for an hour or so just so we could get a break and a cup of tea,” says Kevin. “We were physically exhausted. We were so grateful to be able to step away to look after ourselves knowing that Holly was in good hands.”

Amidst all the exhaustion, the family also enjoyed some truly happy memories.

“The Savannah Ward has a lot of sensory equipment to help keep all the children’s brains active,” recalls Kevin, Holly’s dad. “When Holly discovered the bubble machine, she absolutely loved it. She pulled herself up for the first time so that she could see the bubbles.”

After diagnosing Holly with Epilepsy with Focal onsets, the doctors at Evelina London changed her medication to one that prevented the worst of her seizures.

Since switching to her new medication, Holly is doing a lot better. Although she still has some vacant episodes – episodes where she abruptly stops what she’s doing for 30 seconds or so – she is still meeting her development milestones despite her epilepsy.

Holly at Evelina London receiving treatment
Holly at Evelina London receiving treatment

Key workers giving back

As key workers themselves, Kevin and Selena knew how the coronavirus pandemic would put extra demands on NHS staff. Having seen first-hand how hard staff at Evelina London work to look after the children and families in their care, Kevin and Selena knew they wanted to give back. So between Kevin’s police work and Selena’s night shifts supporting adults with learning difficulties, the family decided to start fundraising.

Kevin and Selena had kept Holly and her siblings indoors during lockdown to keep them safe. But keeping them indoors for nearly three months had created its own challenges.

“Three months of lockdown was driving them mad,” jokes Kevin. “We’d only recently taken up cycling, but we thought it’d be a good way to let the kids out while continuing to social distance.”

Kevin and Selena decided to give themselves two months to cycle 300 miles between work shifts. They switched Holly’s usual 10-minute walk to nursery with a scenic cycle along a slightly longer route. During the summer, they started to plan picnics and days out around their cycling. And when the summer holidays began, the couple coordinated their shifts so that they could start cycling a little further afield. The family quickly took advantage of the beautiful seaside scenery near their home in Kent, cycling along the coasts from Whitstable to Dover with the kids riding along in a trailer whenever they had a chance.

All the hard work paid off. Despite thinking that people would be less able to give during the coronavirus pandemic, the family smashed their fundraising target in just two days. In the end they raised £650, four times what they had initially pledged.

“We were quite shocked by how quickly the money went up,” says Selena. “But we were really glad to be able to raise money for such a special hospital.”
“Evelina London provide specialist care for children with a lot of complex problems. It really opened our eyes to how special the hospital is and how important it is to try and give back.”

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