Randalstown family set for epic cycle fundraiser for NHS heroes who saved son’s life
Randalstown mum and dad, Iain Harrison and Christine McBurney, are gearing up for an epic static-cycle fundraiser in September in aid of the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
The couple’s fundraiser is being held as a ‘thank you’, and recognition of the amazing care and support that the dedicated hospital staff gave to their young son. Six year old James was placed on life support last month as medical staff fought to save his life after he suffered a seizure at the family’s home.
On a normal kind of July day, Christine was keeping an eye on James who seemed not to be feeling his usual self. It was when he suddenly took a seizure that the mum knew something more serious was going on.
“They say you don't truly know fear or worry until you become a parent.”
Christine, a former pupil of Ballymena Academy, tells the story of that unforgettable day: “I faced every parent's worst nightmare when I was forced to confront that very real yet somehow completely unimaginable possibility just a few short weeks ago.
“I ran into the Emergency Department at Antrim Area Hospital, clutching my stiff and unresponsive son to my chest, begging for someone to help me.
“Barely in the door, a nurse appeared by my side, grabbed James and ran with him to resus where countless medical staff descended on the bed. ED staff, ICU medics, paediatric consultants, nurses, registrars, anesthetists - in the flurry, I regret that I don't know all of their names but what I do know with absolute certainty is that I owe them a debt that no amount of clapping on doorsteps can ever repay - the life of my son.
“At one point, no fewer than a dozen of the NHS's finest were focused on my little boy and it was in that very moment that I realised it was true - not all heroes wear capes.
“And while I've never been as scared in my life when they told me 'your son is stable but he's very sick', I took comfort in the fact that I knew he couldn't be in safer hands.
“The ED team and their colleagues from across the hospital worked tirelessly but when different medications all failed to end the seizure, they took action in his best interests as they placed him on life support.
“We were led away from resus while this took place but were kept constantly informed as multiple staff members sought further information about what preceded the episode as they tailored their care.
“We were brought back in to sit with him as a Specialist Paediatric Intensive Care transport team made their way down from Belfast and staff warned us how distressing it would be to see your child, who suddenly appeared so much younger than six, hooked up to machines with countless tubes and wires covering him.
“And they were right, it's a sight you can never unsee but the power of that scene is matched only by the enduring image of the dedication, professionalism and unwavering compassion of the staff who remained calm and ever present at his bedside both in Antrim and the Royal.”
Thankfully over the last weeks, with the skills, professionalism and care of amazing NHS staff, James has made a great recovery.
Christine continued, “He has begun to recover well and is back at home where I'm quite sure, like any six year old, this epic tale will serve as leverage for ice cream and screen time for the foreseeable future!
“We are hopeful that there will be no recurrence, but have been trained in what to do if it should ever happen again.
“We also have no reason to be unduly concerned about the possibility of any lasting damage and there can be no doubt that we have our exceptional frontline staff to thank for that - from the nurse who ran with my son, cradling him as if he were her own; to the senior ED staff member who mask ventilated him, the anesthetists who handled his sedation and watched him like hawks and the consultant who appeared at our side with cups of tea; the PICU nurse who watched him all through the night and the ward staff who became like extended family during our stay.
“They all simply proved the true depth of the vocation that called each of these exceptional individuals to their roles
“These heroes are the reason that tonight, I get to tuck my little boy into his bed and kiss him goodnight. They are the reason that I have the chance to tell him I love him and I'll see him in the morning.
“In recent months we have all applauded our healthcare workers, recognising the invaluable role they have played in this unprecedented war against a global pandemic.
“On top of this seemingly insurmountable task, they are still delivering minor and major miracles every single day.
“It is human to complain and to expect better but it should also be in us to acknowledge excellence and show gratitude and - pandemic or not - our NHS frontline staff are truly extraordinary.
“Words will never be enough for what they did but I will never forget their actions and care in our hour of need.”
To give back in some small way, we have decided to hold a fundraiser in Randalstown with the money going to Helping Hand, the RBHSC charity.
On Saturday 5 September, the family will set up a static bike in the centre of Randalstown - kindly provided by Malachy McCann of MCC fitness - and have set themselves the challenge of seeing how many times they can complete the round trip, from their Randalstown home to the doors of the Royal (just shy of 50 miles), over the course of the day!
“And while my backside is rather less than familiar with the saddle, I will be joining James' father, Iain and some of our wonderful and “very willing” family and friends to rack up the miles,” Christine said.
“There will definitely be sweat, there will more than likely be tears but I have no doubt there will also be the most heartwarming support from our loved ones and friends as well as the people of Randalstown who have already shown us the most generous of spirit which prevails in difficult times.”
James’ father Iain, a former pupil at Slemish College in Ballymena, commented: “We’ve had some great support from local people are businesses already which is very much appreciated. We wouldn’t have been able to do this at all without the support of Malachy McCann at MCC fitness so we cannot thank him enough.”
Christine concluded: “If you can spare a few pennies or support us in any way – turning up on the day will guarantee you a good laugh at us at the very least, then I can assure you, there are no words which could convey how much it will be appreciated.”
Times are hard and the incredible Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and Belvoir Ward at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children will always need equipment and supplies to continue to deliver the exceptional care that James received while under their expert watch.
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