Geordie TV stars Ant and Dec have returned to the region today to officially open a new £1.9m family accommodation at the Children’s Heart Unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.
The award-winning duo were joined by former Magpie Alan Shearer to unveil Scott House, a new Home from Home for families and children receiving lifesaving treatment at the unit.
Parents have already given the facility their backing, saying the Home from Home will allow them to remain close to their children while they undergo life saving surgery.
Julie Finlay, from Choppington, believes the centre would have been a great help and comfort while her son Andonios Pasparas was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and given heart surgery at just one week old.
“It killed me being so far from him and leaving him when he was ill and only a few days old,” she said.
Julie was one of the first families admitted to Scott House, which is only a few minutes from her baby’s bedside.
“Having an en-suite bathroom has made such a difference to me, as I used to have to queue to take a shower or get fully dressed to pop to the bathroom, which ate into the time I had to spend with Andonios.
“It’s the little things which make a big difference when you have a seriously ill baby, and every single minute counts as you want to be by their side for as long as you can.”
Andonios will need a further operation in a couple of months and then major surgery when he is around five years old, so Julie know’s Scott House will be a lifeline for her family in the future.
The £1.9m project, which is the result of fundraising by The Sick Children’s Trust and Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF), will benefit families with some of the UK’s most seriously ill children.
The Freeman Hospital’s Children’s Heart Unit is one of only two Transplant Centres in the UK and offers pioneering and innovative treatment to children requiring heart surgery. Families often have to travel long distances from home to access the centre’s services, so the new accommodation will enable families to stay, free of charge just minutes from their child’s bedside.
Scott House provides both emotional and practical support for families and contains 18 en-suite bedrooms and a transplant flat to help patients prepare to go home, as well as communal living areas including kitchen and dining rooms, lounges, playrooms and laundry facilities.
The name Scott House was chosen to recognise the achievements of Anne Scott, whose tireless fundraising on behalf of her two daughters led to the founding of the CHUF charity to support the children’s heart unit. CHUF was originally called the Lesley Anne Scott Memorial Fund after Anne’s daughter Lesley Anne who sadly passed away in 1979.
CHUF charity patrons Ant and Dec said: “We could not be prouder of the North East today and want to thank everyone who has helped or donated in any way from the bottom of our hearts. As patrons of CHUF, we are honoured to officially open Scott House to the families of the heart patients at Freeman Hospital, Newcastle, who continue to save lives on a daily basis whilst offering world class care.”
Alan Shearer, CHUF patron, added: “Some of the children are on the children’s heart ward and Paediatric Intensive Care Unit for a very long time, especially if they are waiting for a transplant or recovering from complex surgery.
“Being separated from their parents - and parents being separated from their children - is tremendously stressful and it has never been more important for us to support them on their difficult journey.
“The ‘Home from Home’ family accommodation is of an incredible standard, with every detail considered. I am honoured to be a part of their journey.”
The building has been designed by award-winning Newcastle architects, Jane Darbyshire & David Kendall (JDDK) Ltd and built by Sunderland-based Brims Construction.