Austin and Annabelle

Austin & Annabelle

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Born with chronic kidney disease, six-year-old Austin has spent his whole life in and out of Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). In early 2020, a transplant became necessary, but two weeks before the operation was scheduled, all living donor transplants were halted as the nation went into lockdown at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The next four months caused unimaginable strain on the lives of Austin, his twin sister Annabelle, and their parents, who shielded at home.

Austin and Annabelle were kept from being with their reception classmates who had returned to school towards the end of term, losing out on essential parts of their learning and development. When he finally received the surgery four months after originally intended, so much about hospitals had changed.

Donna, Austin’s Mum said, “It was heart-breaking to see children confined to their beds and playrooms closed. There was nothing to distract Austin from his illness and treatment.”

All this changed when a GOSH Play Specialist recommended Spread a Smile. Smile TV is the charity’s 24/7 entertainment channel, where children can enjoy a host of our fun and engaging recorded videos from our entertainers and celebrities. This facilitated a vital distraction for Austin. He subsequently joined virtual arts and crafts sessions and a visit to Santa’s Grotto, reconnecting him with the outside world as he continued to shield for months after his surgery.

“Austin had gone inside of himself during the trauma of his transplant journey, but Spread a Smile’s presence dramatically improved his wellbeing and returned him to the “sunny kid” we know him to be. You also included Annabelle in all of your activities. Siblings often feel left out, so everything that linked them and gave them a shared experience was invaluable. There have been so many positive moments for Austin in the midst of more difficult ones thanks to Spread a Smile.” 

Please help ensure we can continue to support children like Austin and their families by donating today. Thank you.