Father cycles 1,000 miles to thank Evelina London for saving his daughter's life

Posted on Friday 12th August 2022
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Iain and his daughter Amelia

A father has cycled almost 1,000 miles to thank the team who cared for his teenage daughter when she became critically ill.

Iain Painting, from Kingston upon Thames in south west London, together with two friends, has raised thousands for Evelina London Children’ Hospital after his daughter Amelia received lifesaving treatment for meningitis and encephalitis.

In 2019, when Amelia was 13 years old she first started feeling ill. Dad Iain, 54, said: “Amelia first complained of a headache and temperature, but we didn’t think too much of it. The day afterwards, she bounced up and played hockey, but that afternoon again complained of a headache and had a temperature. By the evening, she still wasn’t right and as the day went on, she continued to get worse.”

Iain and his wife Mary decided to take her to the A&E department at Kingston Hospital and within what felt like minutes, staff assessed Amelia and decided she needed to be intubated. Iain said: “Doctors knew almost instantly that Amelia was seriously unwell and would need to be taken to an intensive care unit.”

Once intubated, a team from the South Thames Retrieval Service (STRS) arrived to take Amelia to our paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), via a specially equipped ambulance with intensive care equipment.

Once at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, clinicians discovered that Amelia had contracted pneumococcal meningitis, a life-threatening infectious disease that causes inflammation of the layers that surround the brain and spinal cord. She also had encephalitis, which is an inflammation of the brain itself.

Amelia was put on mechanical ventilation, which took over her breathing while she couldn’t do it on her own. Her clinical team fought to save Amelia, but as each day passed, her conditioned deteriorated. Iain said: “On Monday morning she was admitted to PICU and by Thursday the team were so worried about her that I was asked to bring in our son Aidan to say goodbye to her.

“We began living hour by hour. If she managed to make it to the hour, we’d just look to the next. The team would talk us through everything, discuss all of the results of the tests and scans they were doing and let us know how they were hoping to save her.”

The following day the family received the news they were all hoping for. Iain said: “On the Friday morning, in the blink of an eye, her condition began to improve. She started to respond to things around her and was beginning to move. She held my hand which was incredible. Just a few days before I thought she might never be able to do that again.”

Amelia was taken off the life support machine the next day and was moved to the High Dependency Unit (HDU). Though she still needed ongoing support, including help walking, she was able to leave the hospital the following week.

Iain said: “The meningitis caused Amelia to lose the hearing in her left ear and she had a severe eye infection which needed further treatment.”

After being discharged, Amelia continued to make huge improvements. Iain said: “One of the biggest things for us was the sheer numbers of different people who all pulled together to care for Amelia. While we were in hospital, the doctors and nurses were just incredible. They looked out for Mary, Aidan and I almost as much as they cared for her.

“She needed physio to help her to get back on her feet after being on PICU. Evelina London’s audiology team also fitted her bone conduction hearing devices so she can hear again. Although we’re all still processing what happened, we have a happy ending and I know from being on the unit, not every family gets that.”

To show his appreciation for all of the teams that cared for Amelia, Iain cycled for nine days across the length of the UK, completing the 1,000 mile challenge, from Land’s End in Cornwall, with friends.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Iain. “You get to see some phenomenal sights and we met some brilliant people along the way. As we were wearing our Evelina London jerseys, people would ask us about what we’re doing so we got to speak to people about our story.

“I just can’t say thank you enough. Amelia had a level of care that we just didn’t know existed. Everyone we encountered was just so compassionate. We all felt like we were part of the Evelina London family and that will stay with us forever.”

Dr Tammy Hedderly, consultant paediatric neurologist, said: “It is fantastic to see how well Amelia is recovering following her illness. To know she’s able to get back to playing the sports she loves is a testament to her determination and the support of her family.

“I’d like to wish Iain a huge thank you from myself and the rest of the team who have cared for Amelia for taking on such a huge fundraising challenge. We are exceptionally grateful.”

So far Iain and his friends have raised almost £5,000 for Evelina London Children’s Charity.