Sunday, 14 April 2024
Sunday, 14 April 2024

Youngest ever patient honoured by hospital that saved his life

INSPIRING patient Tony Hudgell was left speechless after seeing himself immortalised as a thank you for his incredible £1.8 million fundraising for Evelina London Children’s Charity.

He was surprised with a tile at the new space-themed Children’s Day Surgery Unit at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, which half a million pounds of his fundraising has gone towards. The ceiling tile shows Tony as an astronaut – with his crutches, prosthetic legs, and a name badge – immortalising him in the hospital that saved his life. He was also gifted a souvenir version of the tile and an engraved brick from the building, to take home with him.

Along with his mum, Paula Hudgell, Tony had a tour of the outer-space-themed unit where he was reunited with his surgeon Michail Kokkinakis.

Opened in July 2023, the state-of-the-art unit is housed in the brand-new Children’s Day Treatment Centre and has two operating theatres, helping the specialist hospital treat up to an additional 2,300 children every year.

During the tour, Tony was asked to look up and was thrilled to see the astronaut tile. Tony, who earlier this year became the youngest person ever recognised in the New Year Honours list, said:

“I’m so happy and proud.”

Paula Hudgell said: 

“It was absolutely wonderful to visit the Children’s Day Surgery Unit and see the surprise on Tony’s face when he saw himself as an astronaut. Evelina London saved his life and it means so much to us.

“I could not be prouder of our boy – his strength and determination brightens our every day – and we hope his fundraising helps bring smiles to all the children who walk through the hospital’s doors.”

The nine-year-old, from West Malling in Kent, has received specialist and life-saving treatment at Evelina London since he was a baby. In 2017 he had both legs amputated and he had his first prosthetics fitted two years later. In 2020, age 5, he challenged himself to walk every day of June to raise money for Evelina London Children’s Charity and set an initial target of £509. Four years later, he is now the charity’s biggest fundraiser to date.

Supported by Tony’s fundraising, the new unit has everything needed for day surgery in one family friendly space. This reduces waiting time for families, as pre-surgery checks, the operation, recovery and preparation for going home can all be done in a seamless way in one place, on the same day.

It also has created extra capacity to treat children with more complex conditions in the main Evelina London Children’s Hospital building. Since opening, over 1,180 children and their families have been treated in the new unit.

Designed with families in mind, the unit has over 82-pieces of space-themed artwork, funded by Evelina London Children’s Charity. As a part of a competition, children and young people designed their own artwork which inspired the interiors. Japanese manga artist Kiriko Kubo, in collaboration with art and design company Art in Site, reimagined some of the children’s ideas in designs featured throughout the building, including a special one-off piece of astronaut Tony.

Mr Michail Kokkinakis, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Evelina London, said:

“It was so wonderful to welcome Tony back to see the latest project he has helped fund. His out-of-this-world fundraising continues to make a positive difference to the children we care for at Evelina London and thanks to his determination we can bring smiles to the faces of anxious children and hope to worried families.”

Tony first visited the unit when it was officially opened in December by Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales, Evelina London’s Royal Patron. Together they took part in space-themed crafts along with one of Evelina London’s play specialists and young people who have had surgery at the new unit.

Tony’s fundraising is going even further to help children, like himself, access the specialist care they need even closer to home. The Tony Hudgell rehabilitation programme has been designed to help children and young people receive high-quality, personalised, rehabilitation services in the community. This allows them to live well at home and access specialist care regardless of their proximity to Evelina London.

He is also helping improve surgery for both patients and surgeons. Thanks to his fundraising, children now have virtual reality headsets that allow them to travel into space, swim with turtles, and even take a walk with dinosaurs ahead of procedures. This helps reduce anxiety and make the hospital a more enjoyable experience. Meanwhile surgeons have been able to access the latest cutting-edge 3D printing software which helps them to plan and perform delicate surgeries before they enter the operating theatre.

His fundraising for Evelina London Children’s Charity helps support the compassionate, trailblazing care of Evelina London. It also helps fuel incredible moments, from play at a child’s bedside, to big leaps in innovation, every day.

Laura Savory, Associate Director of Fundraising at Evelina London Children’s Charity, said:

“We are so grateful for Tony’s incredible fundraising and dedication to Evelina London Children’s Charity. Together with Tony, we are making great strides in helping children and young people live the best life possible. We hope to continue to grow this community of astronauts as more people support the vital work of the Children’s Day Surgery Unit.”

To find out more about Tony’s incredible fundraising visit: https://evelinacharity.org.uk/stories/tony-hudgells-trailblazing-first-steps/.

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