Gateshead family breathes sigh of relief as 5-year old son cheats death


Just hours after Mike and Adele Devenport noticed that their 5-year old son Benjamin had trouble breathing they were at his bedside while doctors battled to save his life.

When 5-year old Benjamin began speaking like Darth Vader, his parents took him straight to their GP who prescribed him a dose of amoxicillin. But his condition worsened and at 3pm that afternoon they rushed him to A&E at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

"The staff only had a quick look before they realised that something serious had happened," explained Adele.

Ben was quickly sedated and a tube was inserted into his throat to help him breathe while the doctors tried to identify the underlying cause of the problem.

"They had a team standing by, ready to do a tracheotomy if the tube wasn't enough to help him breathe. At that moment I thought we were going to lose him," said Adele.

It quickly became clear that Ben needed specialist care and the medical team called for an immediate transfer to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle. But with only one available space, a similar request by a hospital in Darlington left Ben's life hanging in the balance. The Devenports had to wait an agonising 20 minutes before a decision was made to make Ben the priority.

A retrieval team brought Ben by Ambulance to the intensive care unit at the RVI. Adele had to stay and look after the couple's other little boy, 3-year old Joshua while Mike went with Ben in the ambulance.

When they heard what had happened, Adele’s parents got on the first flight to Newcastle from their home in Northern Ireland and drove through the night to get to the hospital.

Not wanting to leave Ben's side to spend the night at their home in Lowfell, Gateshead, Mike and Adele's father Trevor were prepared to spend the night on the hospital floor. But with the help of The Sick Children's Trust, a charity which provides free, high-quality 'Home from Home' accommodation for families whose children are seriously ill in hospital, they didn't have to.

With 23 cosy family bedrooms each with a direct line to hospital wards, Crawford House on Queen Victoria Road is part of The Sick Children's Trust's national network of 'Homes from Homes' provided for parents of sick children staying in nearby hospitals.

Mike and Trevor were put up in separate rooms, only minutes away from Ben for the entire 3 days while he was in intensive care.

"It was extremely comforting to know that there was always someone by his side," said Adele. "I had never heard of The Sick Children's Trust but without their help those 3 terrifying days would have been unbearable."

"With a tube in his throat Ben wasn't able to communicate. He can't read or write that well yet so aside from shaking his head or giving us the thumbs up he couldn't tell us how he was feeling. As a parent it was a very difficult time. All we could do was to never leave his side."

Finally the doctors discovered that Ben's windpipe had collapsed in the middle and they managed to re-open it. He was transferred to the Great North Children's Hospital and shortly afterwards finally allowed to come home.

Three months on and Ben is still on medication but Adele and Mike are simply grateful that he is still with them. "He gets tired quickly but is now back on the football pitch, playing with his friends."

For Mike and Adele, having had the option of spending the night next door to their son meant the world.

"The speed with which children can get ill is very dramatic and you need to be there for them immediately and constantly. The support which we received from The Sick Children's Trust was amazing and I would encourage everyone - especially people with children - to support this charity. Hopefully you will never need their help but if you do, they are there for you and your family."

Law firm Simpson Millar LLP has recently launched a charity campaign to help The Sick Children's Trust - donating £25,000 in sponsorship of these 'Homes from Home' provided for parents of sick children staying in nearby hospitals.

Completely reliant on donations with no government funding available, the charity offers 102 bedrooms every day of the year and since its foundation in 1982, it has supported more than 35,000 family stays. Simpson Millar's sponsorship will go towards meeting the £1million needed per year to run the houses and ensure that families of ill children have a safe, warm and clean place to stay completely free of charge for as long as they need it.

Neil Fearn, Head of Neurotrauma at Simpson Millar LLP said: "The Sick Children's Trust's 'Homes from Home' are absolutely invaluable to parents of seriously ill children and we want to do our bit to help keep the doors open for families like Benjamin’s."

The Sick Children's Trust 'Homes from Home' are based at 6 major paediatric hospitals across the UK including one at the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

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