‘Our little miracle’ – Ipswich’s Esther Qefa set for Christmas with family after festive hospital stay

Esther in hospital with mum Charlotte Herbert and dad Dominic Qefa last Christmas Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST

Esther in hospital with mum Charlotte Herbert and dad Dominic Qefa last Christmas Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST - Credit: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST

An Ipswich family who spent last Christmas by their daughter’s Great Ormond Street Hospital bed are looking forward to a festive season together this year.

Esther with her mum and dad Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST

Esther with her mum and dad Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST - Credit: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST

Two-year-old Esther Qefa and her family didn’t have the usual Christmas everyone dreams of last year.

Unbeknown to her parents, the toddler had been living with severe combined immune deficiency (SCID), a rare group of disorders which cause major abnormalities to her immune system. Two months before the big day, she contracted astrovirus – causing severe diarrhoea and sickness.

Unable to fight the virus off on her own, she lost the ability to walk and talk, and remains on preventative medication and antivirals to combat the virus.

Over her three months in hospital, The Sick Children’s Trust provided her family a warm and comfortable place to stay, minutes from her bedside. Previously staying at Acorn House in Cambridge, they spent the festive season at the Rainbow and Guilford Street Houses near Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

Cheeky Esther is looking forward to a Christmas at home with her family Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST

Cheeky Esther is looking forward to a Christmas at home with her family Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST - Credit: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST


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Esther’s mum Charlotte said the support offered to her and Esther’s father Dominic helped them through the extremely challenging time.

“Esther’s time in hospital would have been extremely challenging without having a place to stay,” she said. “We couldn’t both stay on the ward and living over two hours away from GOSH would’ve meant travelling there and back every day.

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“After a long day on the ward the last thing you want to think about is driving home leaving your seriously unwell child, never knowing what could happen overnight and not be close.

“All you want to do is stay and be together to support each other.”

Esther with mum Charlotte Herbert Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST

Esther with mum Charlotte Herbert Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST - Credit: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST

The family had no plans to celebrate Christmas other than enjoying lunch at Esther’s grandmothers. With Esther being in hospital, her family and friends instead came to visit her on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, in what Charlotte described as a “lovely time for them and Esther”.

Thankfully, despite being told she would be unlikely to live past this summer, Esther and her family are preparing for another Christmas together.

Charlotte said: “Esther has come further than anyone expected or thought which is amazing.

“We’ve had conversations with her consultants that we never thought we’d get the chance to, she is our little miracle and we’re so incredibly proud of her.”

Esther, 2, spent Christmas at Great Ormond Street Hospital last year Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST

Esther, 2, spent Christmas at Great Ormond Street Hospital last year Picture: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST - Credit: THE SICK CHILDREN'S TRUST

The family are now calling on people in Suffolk to donate to The Sick Children’s Trust to help ensure other parents can stay near their children in hospital this Christmas.

“We are so grateful to everyone at the hospitals for our daughter’s care and to The Sick Children’s Trust for making our time there easier by giving us a place to stay in both Cambridge and London,” Charlotte said. “We know that times are tough right now and have been this year, but we have donated what we can to help another family stay together when their child is in hospital, and hope others do too.”

Jane Featherstone, chief executive at the trust, said: “This year we’re grateful for the times we can be together with loved ones. For the families that we will be supporting, with a child in hospital over the Christmas period, being together will be harder than ever.

“With a donation of £30 from you, we can ease their worries and give them a place to stay just minutes from their child’s hospital bedside in one of our ‘Homes from Home’ and ensure that they can be together this Christmas.”

Donations to the trust can be made here.

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