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Tom’s story: from patient to staff member and fundraiser

young boy with black baseball cap in hospital bed with white sheet and light blue blanket looking straight at the camera
08 April 2021

Tom from Sheffield was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, aged just fourteen.

22 years later, he is working at the hospital which saved his life, supporting staff members across Sheffield Children’s in the I.T. Department.

Tom has now also pledged to run for 1,400 minutes, one minute for every child diagnosed with the cancer in the UK each year, to raise money for a new Cancer and Leukaemia ward.

Tom recalls his diagnosis, in October 1998: “I was very tired, I had aches, pains and a platelet rash all over my body.”

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia is caused by a genetic mutation which releases immature white blood cells into the blood stream. It progresses with speed and aggression, requiring immediate treatment.

Tom continues: “I was on and off the ward for around two years. The treatment involved large doses of chemotherapy, which made me really sick.

“I was very down so I wouldn’t get out of bed or see anyone. This led to my leg muscle wasting away and I had to build it back up to walk again.

“I remember a Sheffield Wednesday player visited the ward and sat with me for ages. It brought me around and gave me the urge to kick on.

“The staff on the ward were amazing too and very accommodating, allowing one of my parents to stay with me for most of the time. Although it was a hospital ward and a really sad time in my life, I remember feeling calm and at ease whenever I was there.”

“If I could say anything to the team who looked after me now, it would be sorry! I was a stroppy teenager who wanted nothing other than to be with his mates, but I couldn’t.

“I was also very cheeky and joking aside, it would be a big thank you- for everything and for putting up with me. I’d love to give them all a hug, they were brilliant- every single one of them. I was hoping when I started here at Sheffield Children’s that some of them would still be here, but it is understandable given the time that has passed that many have moved on.”

In 2019, Tom joined Sheffield Children’s to work in e-systems. Day-to-day, he ensures that standards and procedures are in place to support staff at the Trust, from monitoring the quality of data to providing training.

The money raised from his challenge will support The Children’s Hospital Charity’s appeal to build a new Cancer and Leukaemia ward at Sheffield Children’s.

Tom added: “I’ve always liked the idea of raising money for the Cancer and Leukaemia ward and then I saw a post on social media about the new ward, so I jumped at the thought.

“The ward was very basic, but we did have the playroom as well as books and games consoles for the older children. There weren’t many single rooms, I always tried to get one but was rarely successful because other patients needed them more.”

Under the plans, there would be more single patient bedrooms to provide quiet for sleep and rest. They could also mean parents and children spend more quality time together, with privacy for treatment and personal activities including simple everyday tasks like getting ready in a morning.

It is hoped the new space will be fully funded by charitable donations in less than nine months’ time, yet how much the space can be improved will depend on how much can be raised in the intervening period.

In November 2020, The Children’s Hospital Charity revealed a wishlist for the new patient bedrooms, developed following an extensive survey of patient, family and staff feedback.

Tom adds: “To know that I’m giving something back to a place that took such good care of me when I needed it most, and that it could make another child’s stay a little more comfortable, will certainly warm my heart.”

To support Tom’s challenge, click here.

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