There was life before camp, then there was life after camp.
Before camp, Cordelia describes life as moving from one crisis to the next. She has four children: Ebun, Nathan, and twins Tomi and Tobi. The twins have Sickle Cell Disease and Tobi also has Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. Sickle Cell Disease causes unusually shaped red blood cells, causing symptoms such as anaemia, damage to other organs such as the lungs and spleen, and vulnerability to infection. One of the most common symptoms of the disease is sickle cell crises, when blood vessels become blocked, causing severe pain lasting days or even weeks.
Every day was centred around the twins’ hospital visits and specialist care. The worrying never stopped, especially when the twins were at school. With Sickle Cell Disease, it’s crucial to keep warm as any cold weather can make the blood vessels smaller, making sickling of the red blood cells and pain more likely.
"It was the best experience of our lives! We made new friends, who we still keep in touch with. We are a happier family after attending the camp."
Life before camp
Nathan sensed the pressure Cordelia was under, saying: ‘Mum doesn’t even live a life’. With four children, two of whom have a serious health condition, she didn’t have time for anything else. Unpredictable symptoms meant no social events or holidays because it’s impossible to plan ahead. In 2021, Tobi’s health drastically declined. In a very short space of time, Tobi developed an infection, had a stroke, and suffered a heart attack. He was intubated in the ICU for almost a week. No one knew what the impact of the stroke would be on Tobi. A bone marrow transplant followed, but every day remains a challenge as Cordelia works out how best to care for him and his sister. Life has been tough for this family, and the frequent hospital visits made it difficult to plan things to look forward to.
Then, in spring 2023, Cordelia and her family went to Family Camp. It was the first time the five of them could be together as a family without having to worry about the twins’ health. For Cordelia, it was her first chance of respite from around-the-clock care since the twins were born.
Life at camp
Camp helped her discover she didn’t have to struggle alone. She was overwhelmed to meet other families who understand the impact of living with Sickle Cell Disease. She spoke to others who had had a bone marrow transplant or were on the waiting list. They understood the stress of having children with Health Challenges. It’s not something that goes away, but meeting others who get it helps with the isolation she experiences day-to-day.
Cordelia was worried when she then dropped her children at Health Challenge camp in the summer: ‘the first day without them didn’t feel real. By the second day though, it felt like the best holiday ever! I only had to worry about myself for the first time. I knew that my children were in safe hands at camp.’ This is a luxury parents and carers of children with Health Challenges rarely get to experience. The crucial part for Cordelia was seeing the joy and happiness across all four of their faces at the end of camp.
Life after camp
After camp, life became fuller. Camp showed them they can have fun together – and separately – in a way that’s safe and accessible for everyone. Ebun and Nathan returned with a better understanding of the sacrifices Cordelia has made to support their family. Meeting other siblings like them enabled them to fully realise this. As a family, they are better able to support each other in times of crisis – but they also know now to share the joyful moments together. The twins told us: ‘Camp was the best experience of our lives. We made new friends, who we still keep in touch with. We are a happier family after attending the camp’.
Give the best ever gift this Christmas
Your donation brings the joy of camp to those who need it most. Ebun, Nathan, Tomi, and Tobi loved their time at camp: ‘we didn’t want it to end!’ Help bring families like Cordelia’s together, often for the first time, to make special memories and rediscover the mischief and magic of childhood.