Evgeny Lebedev

Let’s raise another million for the children at Great Ormond Street Hospital

The Evening Standard Friday 8 January 2016

The memory that stays clearest in my mind from the time I spent at Great Ormond Street Hospital is the T-shirt worn by Ralph Frost, who had recently had his kidneys removed and was being kept alive through dialysis.

Not that he was letting a minor inconvenience like that bother him. Ralph, like four-year-olds everywhere, was much more concerned with showing off his favourite toys and the pictures he was busy drawing.

We drew stick figures together and then played with Lego, only the occasional beeps from the machines on the ward reminding us where we actually were.

But it was the T-shirt that kept catching my attention. “When I grow up,” the slogan on it read, “I want to be a superhero.” It was not only the “When I grow up” that got me. It was the “I want to be a superhero”, because,  like all the children at the hospital who undergo pain and treatments that would test any of us, he already is.

Ralph’s mother Amie told me he had already been in and out of the hospital for two years. “Recently,” she ex-plained, “he got lots of blood clots so his kidneys had to be taken out.” When was that, I asked. “This  Friday,” she answered.

I have two half-siblings a similar age to Ralph. When I was younger I spent many years working with the architect of perestroika and glasnost, Mikhail Gorbachev, to raise money for the foundation he set up in his wife Raisa’s memory to help children with cancer.

There is, I know, nothing more heartbreaking than the reality of a critically ill child, their lives in danger of being cut off before they can  properly begin.

I never heard Ralph complain about what simple bad luck meant he was having to undergo. Instead, he proudly told me how he is now used to being poked by needles.

He did not moan about being deprived of his favourite foods — chips and pizza were particular ones, I remember — but rather wanted to show off his new-found knowledge of what he could and could not eat, listing them with a beam on his face as he got them right.

Nor was he alone in this. One child at GOSH told how every night, when he is woken in the small hours for his treatment, he tries not to cry out from the pain as he does not want to wake the other sleeping children.

Superheroes all. Just like the nurses and the doctors and the cleaners and all those working at Great Ormond Street Hospital, who go in each day with the sole objective of doing what they can to make the lives of the children there healthier and happier.

Yet now we know we have another group of heroes to thank. And that is you, our readers, who have also done something extraordinary during the past few weeks. The response to our Give to GOSH appeal — not only through the donations that have already raised £2 million, but through your expressions of support on social media — has been humbling.

Thank you for all you have given and for caring about this hospital and what it is trying to achieve. Every penny raised means we can do more to help children like Ralph and their families.

That is why we want £2 million to be just the start. In the final weeks of this appeal before it ends on February 14, which is not only Valentine’s Day but also the anniversary of the founding of Great Ormond Street Hospital, our objective is to raise a million more pounds.

A million pounds to fund new research; a million pounds to ensure the children and their families have the best facilities; a million more pounds to help critically ill children as they face unimaginable challenges.

A new year’s resolution we can achieve together, one we can all be proud of — what a start to 2016 that would be. Please keep helping us reach this goal.