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A happy healthy 12-year-old

Mark was 12 years old when he started to feel ‘generally unwell’. He recalls “I was in and out of GP’s getting bloods taken, things like that. I had a general lethargy and almost Flu like symptoms. GP’s and out of hours Doctors were prescribing things like Gaviscon to help me keep food down”.

A star pupil for attendance at school, the sudden change in Mark’s wellness was obvious to family and teaching staff alike. Then one day Mark remembers “My lips and extremities turned blue in school; it was at this point it became clear something serious was wrong. I also for the first time in my life experienced chest pains”.

There was no prior history of heart problems in the family. On visiting the GP once more, blood results finally showed that something was indeed seriously wrong.

Mark shockingly told us “From this point on, I don’t have many memories until after the surgery, so am going on the accounts of my Mum and Dad”!

Whisked off to hospital

Mark was transferred to the Paediatric ward at Wishaw General hospital where he deteriorated and quickly became very confused and unaware of his surroundings. That evening he was transferred by ambulance to Yorkhill hospital. Mark was given an echocardiogram of the heart and it was quickly determined that he needed urgent Open Heart Surgery!

What had gone wrong?

Surgery revealed that Mark had a vegetation (physical ball of bacteria) on his mitral valve. Caused by a serious bout of a disease called Endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart’s inner lining. Part of this bacteria had broken off and went to his brain causing a slight stroke, responsible for the earlier confusion and becoming unaware of his surroundings.

Mark came round from his surgery, “I remember being scared as I wasn’t sure what had happened and knew my parents were both upset. I was unsure why as I was not aware that I had been through very serious surgery. Something I didn’t understand until sometime later. This was the first I personally remember being in Yorkhill”.

Mark’s memories of hospital

Mark recalled a funny story of his time in hospital. One of his first memories was waking up needing the toilet. Mark was not aware of the seriousness of what he had been through. He remembered being told by a nurse that he was not strong enough to walk to the toilet.

“I was scared and didn’t understand why I wasn’t strong enough to walk. The first memory was that I thought I would maybe never walk again”. Mark used all his strength and with the help of his Mum and nurses he walked to the toilet! “I had never felt more proud after being told ‘I was too weak to walk to the toilet’. As I started to feel better I was aware that I would eventually get back to a ‘normal’ healthy state, so I remember feeling relief at that”.

How the House helped

Thankfully Mark’s mum, Lynne and dad, Joe were able to stay at Ronald McDonald House Glasgow. Mark remembers how this allowed one of his parents to be with him at all times. Something that was very much appreciated.

Thankfully Mark recovered quickly and after just a few weeks of IV antibiotics he was able to go on the occasional trip to Glasgow city centre or home to see his friends and family.

“I remember going to the Transport museum on a little day trip – my first ever time on the Glasgow Subway”!

Sadly, there was another unforeseen benefit to the family having a room at the House. Mark told us “I had my surgery in February 2003 and was discharged around 6 weeks later. My mum was diagnosed with late stage Cancer in June 2003 and died after a short battle with the illness in July 2003”.

He went on to say “The Ronald McDonald House Glasgow had inadvertently allowed me to spend more precious time with my Mum in the last months of her life. Without my parents staying in the House the last few months of my Mums life would have been a lot more stressful and difficult”.

Community spirit

The family stayed in a small village. On returning home, everyone it seemed got involved in fundraising for the hospital and the House. Mark feels that the way everyone rallied around would have made for amazing memories for his Mum during her final few months.

“It felt as though everyone in the village knew of my illness and wanted to be there offering support throughout my hospital stay and for the first weeks of being back home. We held many fundraisers in the local pub and all the local businesses happily donated raffle prizes”.

Getting home itself was a really enjoyable time for the whole family. It marked the beginning of being able to live life normally again. Albeit for a relatively short period of time until Lynne’s cancer diagnosis.

Looking back

When asked if he’d kept any friendships from his time in hospital Mark explained “Unfortunately I have not kept any friendships though when I spoke to my Dad on the phone about me doing this story he welled up about how ‘amazing everyone was’ in the House and Yorkhill itself”.

The only person Mark remembers vividly is the surgeon Mr James Pollock, who he believes has now retired. Mark has an ambition to write to his surgeon to let him know that he is doing well. If anyone has information that could help Mark to do this, please do get in touch.

Looking forward

Mark now lives a totally healthy life in London and has had no further complications. He plans to get married in Glasgow in 2021 – Covid-19 restrictions permitting!

Everyone at the House wishes Mark and his family all the very best. It has been wonderful to have a chance to understand what happened after all these years.

A message from Joe

“You don’t think much of the name Ronald McDonald, I didn’t, not until early 2003. My boy Mark was taken seriously ill, he was transferred from Wishaw General to Yorkhill. Within hours of arriving at Yorkhill he was undergoing major heart surgery.

My Wife and I were distraught, we were at our wits end. We were told it was going to be a long road to recovery. Although we were not too far away (around 20 miles) it was the thought of not being near our boy that almost sent us over the edge. It was then we were told about Ronald McDonald House [Glasgow]. We had never heard of the place, but we were soon put at ease when we met the manager and were told there was a room available for us.

The professionalism of the people at Ronald McDonald House [Glasgow] was superb. In every aspect of their dealings with us their efficiency was tremendous, nothing was a problem.

Something that really struck me about the place was the cleanliness, absolutely spotless. From top to bottom, every nook and cranny, absolutely spotless.

I would also like to mention the friendliness of the cleaning staff, I think they were all volunteers, what a bunch of women they were!

As I sit writing this there’s a tear in my eye thinking about them all. I will always remember them. To all at Ronald McDonald House [Glasgow] my heartfelt thanks.

Forever Grateful,
Joe Smith”

If you would like to help more children have their families by their side during their time in hospital, please make a donation today. Thank you.

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