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11 Oct 2011

I can think of nothing more noble than saving a child’s life. Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) is a truly wonderful place because it is full of people who save children’s lives. My son, Arun, has been a patient at GOSH ever since he was a few weeks old. Indeed, he has had nine operations there over the first 15 months of his life. This week we returned there for an x-ray and clinic to find out whether he would need a tenth.

Outside of the main, unassuming entrance to GOSH there is a statue of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. JM Barrie’s legacy to the hospital of the boy who never grew up is a touching tribute to all the children who pass through the doors. Every time I enter the hospital I look across to the modest bronze and thank Peter Pan and Tinkerbell for looking after my son. Without this hospital and all of its care, Arun would not be with me.

Because we have been there so many times GOSH is starting to feel like home. Despite the fact that some of the most difficult and trying times of my life have been spent inside its doors, I feel strangely comforted every time I walk in. I know that whatever might be wrong with my baby, the miracle workers who ply their trade here are the best people in the world to help him through it. I feel safe in the knowledge that this is the finest children’s hospital in the world.

Arun and I went down and had his x-ray. He was remarkably well-behaved throughout it all, although I could see the anxiety on his tiny features as we went through the motions. He is now so familiar with x-rays and scans that he lets the radiographers get on with their job with a minimum of fuss. Next we went up to the neurosurgical clinic where we were told that Arun would not need more brain surgery for another three to four years. Waves of relief and euphoria washed over me. The threat of another operation had been hanging heavy over me for the last three months.

The sun was shining and Arun and I headed out to celebrate. By coincidence it was also my birthday and the news that Arun didn’t need surgery for the foreseeable future was the best birthday present I have ever had. However, despite my high spirits, there was somewhere else in the hospital that we needed to visit.  If you are ever passing I recommend that you visit as well.

St Christopher’s chapel is a place of peace and tranquillity in amongst the clinical efficiency of a working hospital. The stained glass is beautiful and the baroque columns and artwork are stunning. It is a solemn reminder that not all children are as lucky as Arun and that some, like Peter Pan, never grow up. What really touches me, though, is the Teddy Bear’s choir. Parents and friends of children who have died at GOSH bring in small soft toys which are placed around the altar and the walls of the chapel. Every toy represents a child, a brave life lost despite the best care that modern medicine has to offer. I challenge anyone to go there and to hold back the tears as they gaze upon the hundreds of cuddly toys as they sing their silent lament.

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