There's a special collection at Saturday's match with Colchester United.
It is for the RD&E Hospital’s Bramble Ward and is being led by Freddie, the seven-year-old son of City player Lee Holmes, who has been inspired to raise money for the ward after his little sister Lila fell desperately ill. Freddie will be joined at St James Park on Saturday by friends from his class at Stoke Canon Primary School.
“Your daughter may not respond to treatment and she needs to fight for her life…” these were the terrifying words, enough to send a chill down the spine of any parent, which were spoken to Lee and his wife Carly when their daughter fell seriously ill.
The grave warning still brings the couple close to tears when they recount the story of how a normal family Sunday became a living nightmare.
Only hours earlier Lee, Carly and children Lila and Freddie had been enjoying a happy day together. Little did they know that soon their world would be turned upside down and five-year-old Lila would be in hospital battling severe pneumonia.
Lee said: “It was just a normal day, we’d had a great Sunday together, Lila was singing songs from the Greatest Showman. She was a bit wheezy, but nothing out of the ordinary. We’d seen friends who had a dog and we just put it down to her being allergic.
“Call it intuition, or mother’s instinct, but Carly said she felt something wasn’t quite right and decided to sleep in the same bed as Lila to keep an eye on her.”
During the night Lila’s breathing changed and the couple called 111 for advice, within 10 minutes an ambulance arrived and raced them to the RD&E Hospital. Lila was diagnosed with pneumonia and rushed to the High Dependency Unit.
Lee explained: “She went downhill so quickly, her sats were terrible and there wasn’t enough oxygen in her blood. We were told that her situation was ‘critical stable’, but if she went any further downhill then there would be nothing more they could do. They said it was down to her to fight the infection.
“I went to her and I leaned over and said ‘Lila, there is something nasty in your chest and you have to fight to get it out of your body, you have to fight like you would fight your brother’. She looked at me and said: ‘don’t worry Daddy, I’ll fight it’.”
And slowly but surely, Lila fought the infection and her condition improved until she was well enough to be moved to Bramble Ward, where she continued to get better. Lee and Carly spent many days together at the hospital by Lila’s bedside with little or no sleep. As their relations lived some distance away, they had to take Freddie to the hospital with them.
Lee continued: “The set-up is amazing, while we were there we didn’t have to worry about Freddie. He was looked after and went to lessons in the hospital so he didn’t miss any school.
“They even have a storyteller from the Read for Good charity who go to hospitals across the southern region of the UK telling stories to the children. As a family we are so grateful for the care that Lila received, and also how well they looked after us, that we want to give something back. In fact, it was Freddie that said: “Daddy, can we raise some money for them.
“What they did for us was just amazing and we can’t thank them enough.”
Freddie and Lila will be at the match and will be collecting for Bramble Ward at half time. This week’s collection will be split between Bramble Ward and the CITY Community Trust’s Futsal Academy, who have kindly agreed to share their collection slot, so please give generously.