Evgeny Lebedev

A huge thank you to everyone who helped raise more than £3.5m for Great Ormond Street Hospital

The Independent Friday 12 February 2016

Nothing has stopped me in my tracks so much as the simple generosity of a handful of what you might call ordinary men

In the three months since we launched our campaign to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, there is scarcely a human emotion left that I have not seen tested close to its capacity. The courage of children. The fortitude of parents. The calm skill of doctors and nurses. But nothing has stopped me in my tracks quite so much as the simple generosity of a handful of what you might call ordinary men.

One of the many things that will be funded by the £3.56m this campaign has raised is the creation of a special new unit at Great Ormond Street for children with particularly severe heart problems. Recently I went along to see it being built, and met the men, from a company called CCR Engineering, who were installing the electrical infrastructure; a complicated alarm system in the playroom that can alert a nurse immediately if action is needed.

I was expecting to help install some of the cabling. It was gracious of them to ask me. I was ready to thank them all for their hard work, building this truly life-changing facility. What I wasn’t ready for was to be handed a bucket with more than £500 in it, including the result of a whip-round of their own money that they wanted to give to the campaign.

To do a hard day’s work for a worthy cause is a noble thing. To throw in part of your wages at the end of it for the same cause was a gesture that took the wind straight from my sails. They thanked me. I thanked them. The typically British dance around who should be thanking whom went on for some time.

Rallying people to the cause of improving the lives of profoundly unwell children has been a straightforward task, in some ways. Great Ormond Street’s charity is among the country’s best known good causes, and with good reason. There has been no shortage of big businesses, and famous names and faces all willing to help as they know that this is a hospital which provides the greatest and most professional of care to children in their most feared moments. This is a cause anyone with a heart cannot help but respond to.

But what in the end matters the most, at least in this case, is not only the outpouring of support we have received; the likes, the shares, the retweets, the occasional tear on the Northern Line at the latest story in the London Evening Standard. It is simply the overwhelming size of the number.

That this campaign has raised not £1m or £2m, but £3.5m is what will transform the lives of children, parents, doctors and everybody connected to Great Ormond Street Hospital to an extent that we simply did not imagine possible.

As you will have read over the last few weeks, we will now not only be supporting the new heart unit but be able to spend a £1m on medical research alone, with some of that going on trying to find new ways to treat children suffering from brain tumours. It will fund more than 1,000 nights of accommodation for parents who want to be able to stay close to their sick son or daughter, and enable us to fund 10 of the team of play-care workers for a year.

Moreover the appeal will fully fund the priority needs of the Louis Dundas Centre (LDC), the world-leading unit dedicated to children’s palliative care. Professor Myra Bluebond-Langner, the True Colours chair in palliative care for children and young people, told us: “The generosity of those who have donated means LDC can continue to contribute to palliative care and pain management in children. In so doing it will help us to reduce suffering – everyone’s primary goal.”

Newspapers entertain. Newspapers inform. Newspapers hold the powerful to account, anyone who works for one will quickly tell you that. But they can also empower their readers to achieve remarkable things, should they choose to do so.

There has been no shortage on these pages over the last three months of proof of just how Great Ormond Street Hospital changes the lives of all who come anywhere near it. I hope you won’t mind if I share just one more. Lucie Perry was two years old when she had a heart attack, and went through 54 minutes of resuscitation. She spent eight days connected to equipment of the kind this campaign could help to buy, that kept her heart beating for eight days, while she waited for a heart transplant. A donor arrived, she had the surgery, and now she is back at home with her parents doing all the things little girls should be doing – ballet, swimming, writing, drawing pictures, even cycling.

“I found it hard to get my head around everything we had gone through at first,” her mum Joanna said. “Having seen her so ill, to see her normal again was almost strange. When she’s asleep in bed at night I really struggle to get my head around it. It just blows you away.

“When I was in hospital and Lucie was sick I used to Google good news transplant stories and kept them to help me. I wish I could take Lucie in to the hospital to show all those parents in there now that there is hope and to help them see the future.”

Lucie, being now seven, put it more succinctly: “Just be brave. Your heart will be ready soon.”

These are the stories your money will continue to write for years to come. When the next set of parents finds themselves suddenly going through the unimaginable and turns to Google in the desperate hope for good news, your generosity is what they will find. Thank you.