I have always believed that the very heart of Christmas is the celebration of family. The much anticipated rituals of gathering together at home to decorate the Christmas tree, feasting on the yummiest food, and listening to the squeals of delight as children rip open much longed for presents, are all made that much more meaningful because we celebrate them together as family.
This year my own family will be celebrating our Christmas traditions a little differently. Instead of home, this year our gathering place will be at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, where my precious daughter Lauren has been a patient for the last seven weeks. This will be the very first year in Lauren’s long and difficult health journey that we haven’t been able to take our beautiful girl home from hospital for Christmas.
In early November Lauren held my hand ever so tightly as we walked into the operating theatre for the 121st time for what we knew was going to be a difficult and complex surgery. After ten and a half hours on the operating table Lauren woke in recovery facing quite significant and extremely painful complications. It was beyond heartbreaking to see her in such excruciating pain. When the recovery nurse lifted the sheet to show me what had been done during the surgery I nearly passed out. It looked as if my little girl had been cut in half right down the middle and then sewn back up again.
As I stood in recovery caressing my precious little girl’s hair as tears streamed down my face, Paul Francis sent me the most beautiful message of support from the whole Humpty family. It truly could not have been sent at a more needed time. He assured me that the love and best wishes of each and every one of you was with my brave little girl that night. And as I looked up at the eleven separate pieces of medical equipment keeping Lauren alive, I knew without a doubt you were all there with us as I tried so hard to be strong for my little girl.
In the seven long weeks since that night Lauren has faced many obstacles in her efforts to recover. She has already had two further surgeries and may yet be facing another one before we make it to Christmas Day. She has bravely endured dozens of painful medical procedures and tests and spent weeks without being able to eat or drink.
All throughout the long and difficult journey the Humpty family has continued to be by her side. Lauren smiles whenever she spots a Humpty sticker on a piece of donated equipment and insists we take a photo and send it to Humpty. Just over a week ago, with very little notice Lauren was rushed back into surgery for the 123rd time. As she slowly opened her little eyes in recovery, the first thing she focused on was a Humpty sticker on one of her many monitors. With as much of a smile as she could muster, she gently whispered ‘photo’ and then drifted back to sleep once the photo was taken.
Lauren is only ten years old (she celebrated her birthday in hospital several weeks ago) and yet she already understands just how important the life-saving medical equipment the Humpty family donates is. Earlier this year she travelled to Darwin with the Humpty team. She learnt first-hand just how much medical equipment is desperately needed in the Northern Territory. With a spirit of generosity that defies her age, she donated her entire ‘Disney Dream’ fund and purchased a piece of medical equipment for the paediatric ward in Gove Hospital. The plaque she was given from Humpty to thank her for her donation is one of her proudest possessions.
And so this Christmas our family is doing all we can to ensure we are giving the world’s bravest, most generous little girl a Christmas to remember. We have filled her hospital room with so many decorations that the entire hospital is calling Lauren’s room the Christmas Cave. There are over a hundred Christmas baubles hanging from the ceiling, we have stuck tinsel on every surface that doesn’t move, and have hung up almost as many twinkling lights as there are stars in the sky. She even has a big Christmas bell hanging from her IV pole so that she is spreading Christmas cheer wherever she goes. And most importantly, Lauren has had it confirmed by Santa himself that he and his reindeer will be landing on the hospital’s helipad once all the children are asleep on Christmas Eve.
This year instead of my family gathering around our Christmas tree at home, we will all gather together around the light up Humpty tree in the Happy Garden at the hospital. Whilst no child wants to be in hospital for Christmas, it will still be a magical Christmas for Lauren because the most important element of Christmas will still be there – she will be surrounded by her family. And as she opens her presents from under the Humpty tree, she will be surrounded by the love of her Humpty family as well.
On behalf of my family and every other family in Children’s hospitals across the country this Christmas, thank you for your generous support of the Humpty Dumpty Foundation this year. There is no greater gift you can give a family than the chance for their child to get better. May you and all those you gather with on Christmas Day have a truly joyous Christmas!
Written by Sue Channon, Lauren’s mum