Play is the glue that holds families together

This is Debbi, Kitty’s mum, and her story of the journey that she and her family have been on, through Kitty’s long and serious kidney illness: 

Ask anyone about me, and they’ll tell you that I’m a very strong and capable person. I’m a leader. A do-er. A fix-er. I’m a business analyst for a global car manufacturer.

I thought I could pretty much cope with anything. But when my beautiful, kind and funny young daughter Kitty became ill, my world fell apart.

Kitty’s been in-and-out of hospital since she was six years old, when we noticed she was becoming a bit ‘puffy’. Kitty had a rare kidney condition called Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). To put it simply, her kidneys were ‘leaking’. What followed was years of hospital treatment – which meant years of worry and stress for Kitty. Her treatment meant she put on a lot of water weight and at six years old was wearing my size 12 clothes. Kitty was bullied at school and really struggled to stay positive.

Such a long and serious illness affects the whole family. And at one point, Kitty felt so low, she said to me: “I think you’d be better off without me. I spoil everything because I’m always ill.” That was tough to hear. And I don’t know if we’d have got through this ordeal without the support Starlight provided.

I think what I found most upsetting about Kitty’s words is that even when she was so poorly, and in so much pain, she was thinking of us. Obviously, there was no one to blame for the situation we were in, but that didn’t make it any easier.

Kitty had to have both kidneys removed and survived on dialysis until her dad could donate one of his. The operation was a success, and we hoped for the best, only to have those hopes smashed to pieces.

Kitty became seriously ill, and a surgeon had to be helicoptered to the hospital. Thankfully, they were able to save Kitty’s kidney, and she began lengthy treatment with an experimental new machine to remove lipids from the blood.

Over her seven years of treatment, every time Kitty went into hospital, I saw another layer of her confidence stripped away. Support from people like you meant Starlight could help us keep everything together. Thanks to the play resources they provide, I was able to reconnect with my daughter through play. Whether it was colouring-in or fuzzy felt, storytelling or jigsaws, playing helped to ease Kitty’s anxiety and made the dark thoughts disappear.

Your generosity helps Starlight to turn a hospital ward into a children’s ward. Starlight really helped to bring the fun, laughter and distraction that are such a mental and physical tonic for kids like Kitty. There were storytellers, performances and lots of group activities. We even had a virtual puppet show online, because Kitty was away from the ward on dialysis.

When we were playing together, all the baggage that comes with illness disappeared. Kitty became a child and I became her mum – something that made us feel like a ‘normal’ family again.

These magic moments are few and far between for far too many seriously ill children right now. And I was shocked to learn that over 80% of all healthcare facilities have no budget for play*. That’s why your support is so valuable.

By sending a gift today, of whatever you can afford – you can help another child like Kitty play through the dark days of illness. And your gift will be the glue that helps to hold another family together.

Right now, Kitty is in remission, and we’re all hopeful about the future. It’s been a long and difficult road, and I can’t express how grateful I am for the help Starlight have given us – help that supporters like you provide with your generosity.