Ricky Ahier and his wife, Lisa, have praised the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation, which helped pay for flights, accommodation and food while their new-born child, Sophia, was being treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.
Sophia, who was born on 30 June 2020, has Down’s syndrome and was born with heart problems. She is one of seven children.
One week after she was born, Sophia was flown to Southampton General Hospital as medical professionals were worried about her breathing and a lump on her neck.
She was transferred to Great Ormond Street as doctors at Southampton were unsure what the lump was.
Scans revealed she had a vascular-malformation, which is the abnormal development of blood vessels.
‘Doctors told us she will require treatment but it is not urgent. She will have to fly back to the UK to have it treated at some point,’ said Mr Ahier.
‘We were really worried about her as her whole neck was virtually purple.’
Sophia travelled back to Southampton where she had an operation on a hole in her heart, before returning home to Jersey in September.
During their time away the family reached out to Family First, an organisation set up by the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation, who co-ordinate with charities to help provide support for families who need to leave the Island with sick children to receive medical treatment.
Family First then passed them onto the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation, which financially supported the family throughout their multiple trips to the UK.
‘They are like a fairy godmother service. They wave a magic wand and it happens,’ said Mr Ahier.
‘Their help has been amazing. We don’t know the position we would be in without their help. We would never have been able to afford all of the costs by ourselves. We have spent so much time in the UK while still having to pay all our bills at home and feed our other children. It has been like living in, and paying for, two places at once.’
He added: ‘Without the charity’s help we would have been forced to sell our cars and any other expensive items just so we could stay in the UK while our daughter was in hospital.’
Sophia spent last Christmas on Robin Ward at the Jersey General Hospital due to a recurrence in her breathing problems. She was flown back to Southampton General Hospital in January due to suffering with sleep apnoea – a disorder in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops during sleep.
The charity supported the family during their return trip to Southampton earlier this year.
Mr Ahier added: ‘They have told us if we need help we can just contact them anytime. It is so comforting knowing that if we have to return to the UK with Sophia, there will always be help for us.
‘The charity has helped us in ways we cannot imagine. We want everyone to know about the amazing work they do and how much they have helped our family.’
The foundation, which won the fundraiser of the year category in the JEP’s Pride of Jersey awards in 2018, raises funds in order to provide financial and emotional help to Jersey families when they need it because their child is sick. On its website, the charity says: ‘Having a sick child can be stressful for families but if they require medical treatment in the UK this adds the additional stress of worrying about finances.’
It adds that it can offer support in a number of ways.