Tag Archives: NEAW

And the money kept rolling in…

Every year when National Eosinophil Awareness Week rolls around, we start thinking about how we’re going to raise more awareness about EGID, particularly in the public eye. During that first year, our focus was all about our awareness as a family and understanding more about how his diagnosis with this rare condition was impacting on M’s everyday life. As time has passed, we’ve looked for different ways to spread the word, reaching out into the wider community and have found that our efforts have naturally evolved to encompass an element of fundraising as well. Whilst the focus of NEAW is rightly about otwmaking sure more people know about this condition and what it means to be living with it, and donations of time are as valuable, if not more so than those of money, we know that any money we can raise will make a difference to the charities we choose to support.

This year we wanted to show our appreciation for the amazing work done by Over The Wall in running camps for children with serious health challenges, their siblings and their families. The truly fantastic week away that G enjoyed at Easter made an incredible difference to her, perhaps even more than we realised at the time. During a recent conversation with G and M about the Allergy UK Hero awards, we got to discussing the reasons why we might nominate each other for an award. To my surprise G stated that my efforts at finding out about and then sorting out her week away at camp was the best example of how I had made a significant difference to her life as an allergy-sufferer and sibling to a chronically ill child. That comment, for me, sums up just how significant the opportunity to have time away from the stresses and strains of life at home with M and to just be a child really was to her.

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During May, I started to document how our fundraising efforts were going and the different opportunities I had found to raise even more for our chosen charity. We had fantastic support from M’s school, who helped him raise an incredible £81 for OTW and through stalls at local community events and generous friends and family members, we raised another £172. Even better, we still have two fundraising plans in the pipeline, both of which came as something of a surprise to me, albeit a wonderful one. The first came when we were part-way through NEAW16, when I received an unexpected phone-call from the Head of Year 7 at G’s secondary school. Thanks to the continued support from our local press and a well-timed article in the local paper, she had a proposition that overwhelmed me and almost rendered me speechless. Year 7 had an enrichment week coming up after May half-term and, as a lead-in to their week of activities, the year group would be having a non-uniform day on the previous Friday. Her suggestion was that the school would use the day to help us raise awareness of EGID and that the money collected on the day itself would be donated to OTW. indexThe reasoning behind this plan was simple and easy to understand: G and M. They wanted to show support to G as one of their own and, knowing how much she had benefitted from her week away and recognising her commitment to supporting M during NEAW, believed that this was the perfect opportunity to do it.

I was more than happy to agree to this proposal and G was soon on board too. She was asked to write a small piece about EGID, NEAW and OTW that would be shared during tutor time on the Friday morning and each tutor was asked to show their group the short film G and M had created for the week. A well-researched, well-written and fully comprehensive letter was sent out by the school to all families explaining EGID and the charity that the money given on the day would be going to.

This week a cheque was presented to G during the weekly Year 7 assembly for an amazing £280, or thereabouts. The Year 7 Head told me that there were several donations made that exceeded the suggested £1 because the funds are going to a charity that have already helped G and M – something I can’t thank my fellow parents for enough. This money will make a difference to Over The Wall and it’s great to feel that we’re giving a little back. It means that so far we’ve raised an astonishing £530, or thereabouts, which covers half the cost for a child to attend the OTW sibling camp. I don’t know what our final fundraising total for this year will be as there is still one event left to go in August, but I’m glad that we have been able to make such a success of our efforts so far.otw

Over The Wall

It was last summer when I first heard about Over The Wall and the amazing camps they run across the UK for children with serious health problems. M’s GOSH and EGID friend, R and his big sister, I otwwere fortunate to go to one and the photos and comments about it posted by their Mum, Annie left me determined to find out more and see whether M might similarly qualify for a place.

Over the Wall is a UK-based charity that is part of the international SeriousFun Children’s Network, which is based on an original idea set up by actor Paul Newman in the 1980s. He identified that the popular US summer camps attended by thousands of American school children every year often left out children living with chronic health conditions because of the inability of camp volunteers to cope with the often complex medical needs. His vision was to open up that opportunity to every child, regardless of their health needs, and he helped to provide full support for every child whilst they were away from home. These children got the full “camp” experience as they were unaccompanied by parents or carers and were able to enjoy a touch of “normal” in their otherwise complicated lives. From that simple starting point, one camp spread across the US and into countries across the world and soon followed the realisation that not only did the sick child miss out, but so, all too often, did their siblings and the idea for a separate siblings camp was formed.

I was delighted to learn about the siblings camp and, feeling that this was another great opportunity for G to escape the constraints of a sick sibling and be surrounded and supported by others in the same situation, duly applied; and so it was that a couple of weeks ago, G headed off to deepest, darkest Dorset for a week of serious fun. Just as her Young Carers group gives her the opportunity to have time away from M with other local youngsters in similar supporting roles, G spent the week with other 8-17 year olds from across the South of England and Wales, who all have 1 thing in a common: a brother or sister living with a chronic health problem. IMG_2504It was a week to be herself, not defined or viewed in her role as M’s big sister, and encouraged to take time to focus on herself without worrying about M and how he would feel.

The children who attend are split into 8 groups: 4 colours determined by their age, with orange for the youngest and blue for the oldest; and then each colour split into separate boys and girls teams. Volunteers are a key part of the camps and their numbers match camper numbers, so for the 60+ children on the 2016 South Siblings Camp, there were 60+ volunteers supporting them, encouraging them and making sure they had fun. During the week the teams participate in a number of activities, from swimming to archery and from climbing to arts and crafts and much, much more. Their days are carefully planned with breaks and an after lunch rest hour, which G tells me was strictly adhered to, as well as a cabin chat every evening, where the teams reflect on their days and every member is awarded a bead to recognise what they’ve achieved. IMG_2589Discos, team games, inter-team challenges, morning singsongs, new activities, skills learned, old favourites and even a talent show sum up G’s week away.

G’s enthusiasm about her time on camp has been wonderful to hear and she was keen to teach M the camp songs and share so many snippets of everything she got up to whilst there. I love the fact that there was little or no discussion about their chronically ill siblings, but instead the focus was well and truly where it needed to be – on these children who all too frequently miss out. I was impressed with the array of meaningful mementoes that G brought home with her, as impressed as she was delighted. More than just her purple OTW t-shirt and a black one for M, but also a carefully crafted wooden bird-box, team and camp photos, a hand-print card holding the reflections of the team – both peers and volunteers – on who G is as a person and why they appreciated her, and that precious collection of beads reflecting her achievements during the week, recognised by her team volunteers and accompanied by a written record of why they felt she had earned them. All of these things have built up her self-confidence in those few days away and have helped her feel even more valued within this new group of friends.

For us, it was an unnaturally quiet week in the household and there was a definite sense of something missing from our every activity. IMG_3019M was reluctant to admit to missing having G around to play with and torment, but his move to sleep in her bed every night she was away revealed the depth of those feelings he didn’t want to show.

As a parent, you know you’re on to a good thing when you child asks for more and G has already asked if we can apply for her to go again next year if at all possible. Her enthusiasm about her experience has bubbled over and infected the whole family with M now having everything firmly crossed that his application for a place on the August Health Challenges Camp is successful. That would see him having those same opportunities to enjoy as G in an environment that we can be confident will be safe for him as there are medical volunteers and 1-to-1 support for the chronically ill children. Even better, the children have decided to make OTW the focus of their fundraising efforts during National Eosinophil Awareness Week this May. The one thing I haven’t mentioned is that these camps are offered completely free to those children who attend, making them truly accessible to all, which is a really fantastic part of this charity. Any funds that G and M can raise will help make a huge difference to others like them and if you’d like to make a small donation, you can do so via this link or the button on the right, with our thanks.

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NEAW 2015 – The Round-up

Last week was a busy week.  We just about managed to pause for breath along the way and achieved far more than we thought was possible.  Having taken a couple of days off from my blog – well I thought you’d probably had more than enough of me last week – I wanted to revisit NEAW 2015 to give a round-up of all our activities:

11030831_828235363934315_6504625663623229869_oE for Educate – I appeared on local radio, there was an article in our local newspaper about NEAW and even a follow-up article this week to talk about what we did. I blogged daily and posted regular updates about our life with EGID, achieving 600 views of my blog during the week as well as numerous shares on both FB and Twitter.

D for Donate – With the help and generosity of friends, family and fellow music lovers, we raised a fantastic £260 for FABED.  Thank you so much, I know that money is going to a great cause and will make a difference to EGID families who need their support just as much as we do.

U for Unite – WE DID IT!  Mike and I survived a week “eating like M” and discovered just how difficult a challenge it is.  I was filled, yet again, with absolute awe and admiration for M’s ability to eat meal after meal after meal consisting of nothing more than chicken, rice and cucumber.  I’m also incredibly proud to be able to share with you that G also did her bit on the Friday and ate “mostly like M“, with just a little bit extra of goats cheese and fruit to keep her smiling during lunchtime at school.  It’s the first year she’s asked to join in our challenge and I’m so impressed that she managed to stick it out without a wobble.

1529734_826685834089268_6472897324569407860_oC for Change – I hope we managed to change people’s attitude to and understanding of EGID during the week.  It was great to see the hashtag #morethanfoodallergies trending across FB and Twitter because that’s the key point I wanted to communicate last week: that whilst M struggles with food, his allergies are only a very small part of a much bigger picture.

A for Awareness – We raised awareness in everything we did.  Pink ribbons adorned our clothes, pump backpacks and hair, FABED awareness bands could be spotted around our wrists and M shared his video with the world.  It has had nearly 400 hits on YouTube, which made M’s week and something that started as a small project to encourage him to communicate his feelings about his illness morphed into a fantastic tool that allowed him to actively take part in raising awareness this week.

11265424_10152776813631123_3399504883350731420_nT for Thanks – I said my thanks and expected nothing more, but received some lovely compliments back from those of you reading and sharing my blog.  I’m just a Mum trying to do the best I can for my children and not always getting it right, but it was very nice to be told that I am “…the supermummiest mummy of the lot…” especially by someone who’s not even a family member and therefore under no obligation to believe that to actually be the case!

E for Engage – It may have been the hardest blog post to write for me, but M and G proved that they could engage with their school-mates in the most impressive of ways.  M presented his video at school throughout the week and had a fantastic response.  At the end of the week, I received this lovely and completely unexpected e-mail from G’s teacher to tell me about her class’s response to what M had to say:

M came to visit us with his presentation earlier on in the week and I was amazed, not only by the presentation, but also by his maturity and bravery.  He was just amazing and a real inspiration to us all.  G was also fantastic – helping answer some of the children’s questions and supporting M in the process.  They are both absolutely amazing – a big well done to them and your whole family.

And that just about sums up NEAW 2015 for us, so it must be time to put our feet up for another year…well, a Mum can dream, can’t she?!feetup

NEAW 2015 – The final day

letter_eThis has been the hardest day’s blog to write.  Inspiration has been lacking and I just couldn’t think of what to write about on the subject of “Engage“.  In an attempt to stir my creative juices, I looked again at the many daily updates, photos, videos and statistics I’ve been seeing, reading and “liking” all week, posted by many fellow EGID families on their FB pages, all in an attempt to raise awareness of the illness.  It was as I was browsing that I started to notice that many of them began, almost apologetically, with words to the effect that they were sorry to be bombarding their FB friends with these regular informational posts on the subject, but that it would be for this one week only.

superheroThat’s when it struck me.  This week, 7 days from May 17th to 23rd, I and tens of other EGID families here in the UK and across the world have been fighting hard to raise awareness of this illness that impacts our lives; and we’ve been apologising for it.  We’ve been grateful that we have been able to engage with our audience this week and we’ve almost promised to give it a rest until NEAW 2016 rolls around.  BUT the reality of EGID for us is that we don’t get that break.  We don’t get the chance to focus on it for one week only and then go back to the daily grind of school runs, workloads and running the home.  This is it.  It’s not even just a year-long commitment, but a life-long one and there’s no escape.  I can’t shut down my computer and ignore the posts. I can’t groan inwardly, grit my teeth and ride the week out, thankful that the 24th will soon be here and then breathe a huge sigh of relief that that’s it done for another year.  I don’t have that privilege.

The reason the EGID community has been trying so hard to engage with you this week is the people in our lives who struggle with this rare condition on a daily basis: our superheroes.  Their strength and courage in facing adversity is awesome and their brave smiles bring inspiration at the most difficult of times.

My reasons for engagement are summed up beautifully here by my 2 amazing children:

myfeelins familyfeelings

and with that, there really is nothing more to say.

Our thanks go to…

The week is winding down and I am definitely looking forward to the start of half-term and the chance to have a sleep-in over the weekend.  One’s thing for certain, being active in raising awareness whilst eating a restricted diet really takes it out of you!thank-you-languages

With T for Thanks being our topic for today, what else could I do, but issue a few heart-felt thank-yous to those who’ve made a difference to us in the 12 months since the last NEAW. It’s tricky to know where to start, but, in no particular order, I’d like to thank:

Our families – well it was a given really, wasn’t it?  But whichever side of the ocean they may live, our families have been there in whatever way they can 澳大利亚孩子-1202242and supported us in the tricky decision to move M to a NG-tube and the elemental diet.   We don’t know exactly what the next 12 months hold in store for us, but we can be certain that our families will be there every step of the way.

Our friends – another obvious lot, but again we couldn’t have survived the past year without them all.  Their help has been invaluable: from text messages to lengthy phone conversations; early morning G-sitting to late night conversations with a cup of tea; and much-needed hugs to unexpected hospital mail, every single gesture has meant more than they can ever imagine and helped keep us strong.

GOSH – our consultant, her great gastro team and, in particular, the fantastic nurses who work with such dedication on Rainforest ward. Their care for M back in December was just amazing and without them looking after us both and giving wise words and training, we’d have struggled even more with the reality of the NG-tube and the feeding pump.  We also owe massive thanks to M’s fabulous dietitian, Colorful solidarity design treewho is always at the end of the phone or the email and has given me lots of helpful recommendations as well as reassuring me that I’m doing things right when it comes to the whole food re-introduction thing.

M’s School – I am very aware of just how lucky we have been with the staff at M and G’s school. They have been so understanding of how life was changing for both children during this school year and have made every effort to look after them and help them feel happy and safe when at school.  5 of the teaching staff bravely took on the role to learn how to manage his feeding pump, which meant that I could return to my job, confident that they were competent in what they needed to do.  This week they were also quick to agree to M’s request to share his presentation to the rest of the school and every teacher made time to make sure their class could see it and ask any questions they had.  This school has done a wonderful job of nurturing both my children and I will be sad when G moves on to “big school” in September.

G – the best big sister that M could ever have had.  She’s loved her little brother through some of his darkest moods and, even if there’s a bit too much squabbling at times for my liking, she’s managed to continue to work on building a strong relationship with him that I hope will only get stronger in time.  She’s survived the challenge of SATs, maybe not without the odd tantrum along the way, and continues to strive to do her best at school and at home.  P1000121And my heart nearly burst with pride the other week when she announced at Stagecoach that M is her hero, because of how bravely he lives and copes with EGID.

Mike – I couldn’t finish without recognising the person who stands alongside me on this, the most challenging of journeys we’ve been on together, and is my strength when I’m feeling weak.  We’ve reached a harmony that enables us to take turns in being the strong one during appointments and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be facing these decisions with.  He also understands my need to have some time to escape from the day-to-day grind of EGID and puts up with me disappearing off twice a week to choir rehearsals.

And thanks to all of you, who’ve kept reading my blog, put up with somemany…repeated requests on my part and have done an amazing job at sharing my posts on.  Your silent show of support is what helps keep me going, even when times are tough.

Day 5 and finally it’s A for Awareness!

A for Awareness has meant:

This…                                                                    and this…

                                                          …lots of this…

and this…  

This is the amazing video that M made, with help from his big sister, to share his story about life with EGID.  By the time this blog post is published, he will have presented it to every class in his school – that’s 8 classes, approximately 220 children and around 15 members of staff who will now understand his journey a little better.

So come on, you all know the drill by now:  share, share and share some more and help us get M’s message out there.

United we stand

Yes, you guessed it, today is:

U for Unite-page0001

and signifies perhaps the hardest challenge we’ve taken on for EGID awareness week, ever. This week Mike and I are standing in solidarity with M and with all those other brave souls out there who have to battle with EGID every day and have no chance to opt out when things get tough. For the past 2 years, I’ve documented how we’ve followed M’s diet for the week, restricting our diets as he has to restrict his and even drinking the occasional glass of Neocate Active to get a glimpse into that aspect of his life.

IMG_0940When we first started planning our activities for this year’s awareness week, I briefly considered eating like M again, but dismissed it, thinking that the limitations of 3 ingredients and a litre of E028 on a daily basis might just prove to be too much for both Mike and me.  However, fast forward a few weeks to my preparations for my newspaper interview and I revisited the idea of “eating like M” and wondered if actually this might be something we could achieve.  I chatted it over with Mike, debated whether we could do it and, both being keen to give it a go, decided this would be our diet for the week.  Each day will be filled with 3 meals of rice, chicken and cucumber prepared in a variety of ways and Mike will even be drinking the litre of E028.  I have undertaken this with careful consideration of my own T1D and will be keeping an even tighter eye on my blood sugar management to make sure that I stay fit and healthy during the week.  I have also opted out of the E028, but will be partaking in a pint of Neocate Active everyday to show willing.

We’re not on our own either as there are other parents, family members and friends who will be spending some or all of this week eating like their loved ones. Trust me, it’s not an easy decision to make, but is a great way to raise awareness and get conversations started, which is reason enough to stick to it for a week. I am filled with admiration for just how well M has coped with such a bland diet for so long and have been struck with the harsh reality of how much pain he must have been in for years to be able to cope with these limitations just because it’s helping him feel better. Three_Musketeers_SwordsSo tomorrow when you’re tucking into your bowl of honey nut corn flakes or a bacon roll for breakfast, or sitting with your feet up dunking a chocolate biscuit into your cup of tea, or perhaps even enjoying a plate of fish and chips for tea, spare a thought for M and the others like him who are eating a restricted diet right now or may not be able to eat anything at all.  This week it really is a case of “All for one and one for all“.

Today’s blog post is brought to you by the letter…

D

imagesEver had that feeling that you’re appearing in an episode of Sesame Street?  Sadly my children have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, observe my poor attempts at impressions of the Count (1…ah ah ah…2…ah ah ah…etc) or Cookie Monster (me want cookie!) with complete and utter disdain, and yet it reduces me to giggles each and every time.  I am, without a doubt, drifting into the realms of “embarrassing Mum” behaviour just in time for G to advance into her teenage crisis years.

But I digress; today’s letter, D, stands for Donate.

This week is primarily about raising awareness of EGID, rather than rattling our buckets asking for money, but the harsh reality for children and adults living with EGID is that there is little promise of finding improved treatments until further research into it is carried out.  At the moment in the UK, there are no research projects listed specifically for EGID and less than 1% of all medical research funding is allocated for gastro research.  Kate, over at The Recipe Resource, talks about the need for increased funding for specialised research, especially for medical research in children, in her recent blog post, “Why we need a culture shift on medical research in children – for Eosinophilic Awareness Week” and it’s definitely worth a read.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not expecting the money we donate to change the face of medical research just yet, that sort of change will have to happen at a much higher level than my meagre pounds can help me access.  However, where these donations can make a difference is to charities such as FABED, who really are small fish in the big pond of the charity world.  20150515_151847I’ve talked many times about how much support is given to individuals and families by FABED and the image opposite, which I also posted on yesterday’s blog post, shows just some of the many ways they support their members. We’ve benefitted from most of them.  Our amazing trip to Legoland 2 years ago was organised by FABED and gave Mike and I the opportunity to talk to other parents living with EGID: some who were further down the line in their journey and full of years of hard-earned expertise to share; and some even newer to it than us, who were overflowing with endless questions.  More importantly, it enabled M and G to meet other EGID children and their siblings. They could compare war wounds and stories; and both came away feeling less isolated in their struggles.

The on-line community is a veritable hive of activity and no question is too stupid or concern too small when it comes to these amazing people.  They have extensive knowledge and experience that they are more than willing to share, and when they don’t know the answers, will send a virtual hug to let you know you’re not on your own.  The support doesn’t stop there and this week members have also been sharing photos, images and videos with each other to help raise awareness for EGID.  The emotional and practical support offered has been a lifeline for us more than once and the emails, text messages and phone-calls received from FABED members when we’ve been going through tough times are worth far more than their weight in gold.  This is one such video, which proved to be all the inspiration M needed to finish his own:

So, what can you do today?

With the help of the fantastic choirs I sing with in our community’s Singing Project, we raised an amazing £180 at Saturday’s concert and if you’re able, any small donation you can give to FABED will make a massive difference and will be gratefully received.  I have set up a JustGiving page for this week and all money will be going to this cause.  You can access it by clicking on the image below:

Fabed needs you

And if you’re not able to help financially, that’s ok too.  Please just keep spreading the word and remember that every single person you tell about EGID is one more person who can help support people like M.

NEAW 2015 – E is for Educate

NEAW

It’s difficult to believe that National Eosinophil Awareness Week (NEAW) is once again with us and we have been, believe it or not, even busier this year than last in spreading our message about life with EGID.  I’m hoping to again post a blog a day to raise awareness and this year have decided to follow the theme of NEAW, which uses the word E-D-U-C-A-T-E to do it:

Today’s letter is E for Educate.

This year we have been focussing our energies on educating those around us and around M about EGID.

How? Well. in the last week I’ve been interviewed on our local BBC radio station, featured on the front page of our local newspaper and last night we had a display and raffle at a local choral concert. During the week ahead, M will be sharing his story at school via a PowerPoint presentation that he and G worked together to produce and later in the week, I’ll be sharing that video with you all.

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Why? Because awareness is key.  The more people who know about EGID and trust me, the number of medical professionals who have even a passing knowledge of this chronic illness is staggeringly low, let alone the general public, the greater awareness of it there will be, which in turn means better support for children and adults like M and families like ours.  Not only is there little understanding, but there is also an astonishing lack of funding for research into gastrointestinal disorders in the UK.  Without medical research, then it is highly unlikely that approaches to treatments will improve and nor, by default, will the quality of life for these individuals.

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What can you do? Re-read my explanation of EGID and then spread the word by talking to someone about EGID and explaining what it is.  You can share these blog posts this week and ask friends and family to share them on too. Keep an eye on my FB page and Twitter feed to see who else is sharing information for NEAW 2015.  Find out more about those charities supporting families living with EGID:  FABED in the UK, Apfed in the USA and AusEE in Australia. Change your FB or Twitter profile picture to one of those promoted by FABED or Apfed even for just one day.  Be more aware and know that by knowing something about EGID, you are helping support M and others like him.

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“So much time…

...and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it…”

                                                          – Willy Wonka, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (Roald Dahl)

This past week has been busy and there’s still lots more to do, not least of which is a proper blog post.  However, the reality that is choir rehearsals,..SATS revision,..sunflower growing,..Anglo-Saxon house building,..SATS revision,..CAMHS appointments,..food-trialling,..SATS revision and May Bank holiday trips to Legoland Windsor for “Star Wars Day” as well as time spent prepping for EGID awareness week with Powerpoint presentations to perfect and conversations with local media to be had, means that this week’s posts have gone by the wayside, so instead here’s a small photo round-up to give you a taster of all the fun we’re having: