Mother raises £3,000 to give parents beds beside their seriously ill children
A young mum who spent nine long days and nights at hospital as her baby son fought for his life has raised more than £3,000 to buy four new beds for parents.
Rachael Hetherington and her husband Darren were at 11-month-old Percy's side around the clock in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children's paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) as he battled a rare acute upper respiratory tract infection.
Now that Percy is back to full health, the couple from Killinchy, Co Down, know just how important a comfortable night's sleep is to parents whose children are fighting major illnesses.
Rachael, who owns Roco Boutique in Holywood, decided to hold a fundraising event and luxury ballot at her business in June to raise money to help other parents.
She told the Belfast Telegraph how the ear infection she thought her only child had turned out to be the life-threatening condition tracheitis, which impacted on his breathing.
"We took him to A&E thinking he had an ear infection in February just before his first birthday," said Rachael (32).
"I thought he was just dehydrated as he had been really sick for quite a few days.
"I had taken him twice to a doctor, who told me he had an ear infection.
"But they told us at A&E that Percy was really sick and they needed to support his airway as he couldn't breathe properly, and had to incubate him.
"It was basically nine days for us in intensive care with Percy on the ventilator, as they couldn't get him off it as his infection was so bad. Thankfully, it was a one-off and he's completely fine now.
"The treatment and care he received was first-class and we cannot thank the nurses and staff enough."
While the hospital provides two rooms for parents just off the PICU, Rachael described the former four beds as "horrendous".
She added: "I believe the rooms are vitally important for parents working in shifts round the clock to be with a seriously ill child, as well as parents of babies who haven't ever been out of hospital, or, heartbreakingly, for parents who are staying with their child while organ donations are being arranged.
"This is the reality of PICU.
"We have seen the new beds and it's so much better now."
Rachael teamed up the Helping Hand Charity's Nigel Kearney to find out the type of beds required by the hospital authorities and set about raising the cash required through the boutique.
She added on behalf of herself and her civil servant husband: "I would just like to thank everyone who so generously supplied luxury prizes for the ballots or who bought tickets, as they all helped to raise this money."