At just ten days old, Gabriel was admitted to Neptune Ward at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where he spent the first month of his life. After a year of hospital admissions, tests and visits, Gabriel’s parents Harriet and Sami Kassam launched a fundraiser to celebrate his first birthday. They have now raised more than £4,000 for Neptune Ward, along with a generous donation of almost £1,000 worth of toys for the playroom. Read their story below:
“Gabriel was born on the 30th of September 2019 at 7.46am. A perfect little bundle to complete our family. He seemed happy and healthy and a few days after his birth we headed home to start life as a family of 6 (plus the dog!). When Gabey was 10 days old he was admitted to hospital with signs of a severe infection. This was the start of a long and ongoing journey involving cardiologists, oncologists, gastroenterologists, immunologists, geneticists, endocrinologists and many more.
“Gabriel spent his first month on Neptune Ward at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, the first of seven hospital admissions and countless visits and tests this year. Whilst his care has now been transferred to Great Ormond Street, Neptune Ward will always be special to us. It is filled with amazing nurses and doctors who really helped us get through those frightening first few weeks and have always been there for us whenever we have had to rush back in. They have been a shoulder to cry on and a friend to laugh with. We celebrated birthdays and Halloween together and they were always up for a natter over a cup of tea. They made a scary and uncertain time bearable, and for that we will be forever grateful. It is a testament to their warm and caring spirit that when we reached out and asked them what we could do for them to mark Gabey’s birthday, their minds immediately turned to the children in their care and helping bring a bit more fun to their stay.
“One thing you learn when you become a medical parent is how much more difficult life is for other children and their families. You don’t need to look far to see children far sicker than yours and families that are much more exhausted. Amongst it all, the play therapists and play rooms in hospitals provide a bit of respite from what can otherwise be a tedious, frustrating and frightening time. In Covid times, when all playrooms have been shut, the toys and activities that the play therapists bring round on their ward visits are even more important – half an hour doing some crafts or playing with some toys can help brighten long days for the children and give parents an essential half an hour break to get a coffee or take a quick shower.
“We are very fortunate that at home Gabriel has more toys than he could ever need, and that’s why this year instead of buying him presents, we are asking for help to raise money to restock the Neptune Ward playroom. The nurses and play therapists on the ward have told us what they need most and we are hoping that we can get it all for them.
“For Gabriel, his first year of life was a difficult one. It only takes one look at the photo of him with his Beads of Courage, where every bead represents a medical procedure or a night in hospital (he has 421 beads altogether!), to realize he has endured more in 12 months than many of us have our whole lives. He continues to be a happy, brave little boy despite it all. For us as a family, this year was scary and overwhelming. However, Gabriel has overcome battles and challenges that we were worried he might not. Despite some dark times, he is here with us and we are incredibly thankful. This little fundraiser is our way of giving back and saying thank you to the many people who have helped us this year, and hopefully help bring some joy to the little ones still on the Neptune Ward at the same time.”
Gabriel’s birthday fundraiser now closed, but you can click here to view his JustGiving page.