“When I grow up I want to be a doctor so I can help sick children. Children just like me.”
That is the wonderful hope of 11 year old Elizabeth. She wants to follow in the footsteps of her doctor Professor Mike Shields who treats her for a life-limiting lung condition that inflames and scars her lungs making it hard to get oxygen. Because of it Elizabeth is often left gasping for breath.
Thankfully, because of the generosity of gifts left in Wills to Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke, life-saving equipment has been provided to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC). And it is not just Elizabeth who benefits. Over 1,000 children a year are now treated for life-limiting lung conditions using this equipment.
Mike Shields, Professor of Child Health at Queen’s University Belfast, specialises in lung conditions and has been involved in groundbreaking research into the diagnosis and treatment of respiratory illnesses. He has treated Elizabeth since she was just 5 months old, and her mother Ciara told me, “She idolises him… there is no-one like him!”
But he is not the only person who is helping Elizabeth fulfil her hopes for the future. NICHS supporters are too.
Supporters who previously left us a gift in their Will have also left a lasting legacy for the lives of children across Northern Ireland, including Elizabeth.
As a direct result of gifts in Wills from generous people who wanted to support our work with people young and old, NICHS were able to provide funding for this specialist equipment to RBHSC last year. Measuring and monitoring lung function and sleep disordered breathing, the equipment is life-saving for children with conditions such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, and other life-limiting lung diseases including cancer.
“This equipment is life-changing,” says Professor Shields, “and takes all the guesswork out of our treatment. Over 1,000 children a year are benefitting.”
This was only possible because of supporters who left us a gift in their Will. Every day, we see the impact that such gifts are having in Northern Ireland. We see it with children such as Elizabeth, but also with other ground-breaking local research that is being funded as a result. We can only help one in three people through our care and prevention services because of gifts in Wills. There are children and parents, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers alive today because one of our generous supporters left NICHS a gift in their Will.
Elizabeth lives with her mum and dad and three younger sisters in Belfast. When she was just five months old she suddenly stopped breathing during a bout of bronchitis. Her parents rushed her into hospital and for two months she was on oxygen.
“She was struggling to breathe. We were terrified, not knowing what was happening or what was wrong. Everyday we were waiting for news that we could take our baby home,” her mum Ciara told me.
It took a couple of months of tests but eventually Professor Shields diagnosed her with interstitial lung disease. For the next three years she was on constant oxygen. Elizabeth has to continually take steroids and is on antibiotics constantly in case she picks up a life threatening infection.
But thanks to the people who left us a gift in their Will, the equipment that measures her oxygen levels now allows Professor Shields to know exactly what levels she needs, and she has a portable oxygen supply for when she needs it. Elizabeth can’t be quite as active as other children of her own age, even though she has a very positive attitude and joins in as much as she can. She enjoys school, loves trampolining and playing with her friends.
“We try to encourage her, and although of course she gets fed up at times, she never lets it hold her back. We try and stay as positive as we can,” says Ciara.
Elizabeth is susceptible to pneumonia and other respiratory infections, which is an ongoing worry for her family. She contracted pneumonia a few years ago at Christmas and had to be hospitalised. Her mum knew that if she hadn’t, Elizabeth could have died.
Thanks to the new equipment provided as a direct result of gifts left in Wills, Elizabeth is able to enjoy life with her family. She has just received the fantastic news that she has passed her Grammar School entrance exam and is well on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor one day, like Professor Shields.
People in Northern Ireland are affected every day by the impact of chest, heart and stroke conditions, with 40% of all deaths attributed to these devastating illnesses. For 70 years, thanks to our loyal supporters, we have been able to help the people of Northern Ireland with the promise that we are on their side.
The need has never been greater. It is hard for most of us not to be affected by stroke, heart, or respiratory disease – either directly, or through someone we know. In just four years, 42,000 people will be living with a stroke condition in Northern Ireland and respiratory disease is expected to rise by 72% by 2025.
If you don’t already have a Will, it is very straightforward to make one. We know that family and friends come first and having a Will means that you can make sure that your loved ones and the causes you care about are remembered in a way you would like. If you already have a Will, simple amends can be made to it by using a Codicil Form
Elizabeth’s hope of becoming a doctor is only possible because of the generosity of NICHS supporters who left a gift to us in their Will.
Please help us give a future to young children like Elizabeth. By leaving NICHS a gift in your Will, you can help make hopes come true.
For more information how to leave a gift in your Will click here.
If you have already left NICHS a gift in your Will, or are thinking about doing so, it would be an enormous help if you could please let us know. You can download our Sharing Your Plans here. Any information you share will be in strictest confidence.