A regional daily is calling on its readers to help bring home from hospital a poorly toddler who was the smallest baby in Britain to undergo open heart surgery.
The Coventry Telegraph launched its Help Make a Home for Eleana campaign last week to help transform the family home of Eleana Hastings so she can be brought home from hospital.
Eleana is 18-months-old but has spent most of her life in intensive care at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and just 16 days at home with her family.
The Telegraph’s campaign is calling on skilled trades people and local businesses to donate time and equipment to carry out vital adaptations to their home so she can return home within a few weeks, although she will still need round-the-clock medical care.
Work has already begun on a home extension worth £24,000, paid for by Coventry City Council, to give the family much-needed space on the ground floor where Eleana will remain on a ventilator.
But to bring the home up to scratch, the campaign is calling for painters, decorators, tilers and floor fitters to come forward along with donations of paint, furniture, white goods and lighting.
Deputy editor Andy Mallabone said: ”Our reporter Cara Simpson went out to cover the story after being contacted by the family friend who wanted to appeal for people to help. She immediately spotted its potential as a campaign and spoke to the newsdesk when she got back to the office.
“We just thought it was a heart-warming tale and one which we could really use the reach of the newspaper to make a difference – here was a family who had been through hell for 18 months and there was a feeling of ‘that could have happened to me or you, or anyone’s family’.
“We expected to get a good response but were overwhelmed by the numbers of calls and offers of help within a few hours of the story being published, including an elderly gentleman who walked in to our front office with a £100 cash donation.
“It’s a brilliant example of local newspapers doing what they do best – and testament to the generosity of Coventry Telegraph readers who, even in these tough times, are willing to dig deep for a cause that touches their hearts.
“We look forward to following the campaign through and helping welcome Eleana home to Coventry where she belongs.”
Eleana made history 18-month-ago when she underwent open heart surgery at just nine days old when she weighed only 3lb 5oz, after she was born six weeks prematurely with a large hole in her heart and a missing valve.
Since then, her mum Francesca has lived next door to the hospital in Ronald McDonald House, a residential unit for families with children undergoing hospital treatment, while dad Darren cares for their three other children – Alfie, two, Imogen, eight, and Jamie, 11 – at home in Coventry during week days.
For the past 18 months, the family has only been able to spend time together at weekends and school holidays when they all live at McDonald House.
Christine Collister, a close family friend, said: “They’re such a lovely family and they’ve been through so much yet they’ve never ever asked for help.
“The family has been apart for 18 months and their three older children have been without a mum for so long, so this will be the first time that they’ll all be under one roof at the same time and the other kids will finally get their mum back.”