Mandy Kloppers

“We didn’t think lightning would strike twice” says fundraising family

NHS fundraising

The family of a young man who died of a brain tumour have donated five PlayStation 5s to the Teenage Cancer Trust Hogarth Unit at Nottingham City Hospital.

Thomas Swan, from Collingham, was 24 when he died in November 2020. His parents, siblings, and wife all came along to the Hogarth Ward at City to present the PlayStations and thank our staff for the care they gave to Thomas – and to his family.

“It’s been three years but it just feels like yesterday,” said mum Angela Swan-Dennis.

The family were devastated when Thomas was diagnosed in 2018 – his younger brother William had been diagnosed with liver cancer as a baby and had a transplant before he was one year old.

“We didn’t think lightning could strike twice,” said Angela. “William became ill when he was just 21 weeks old, and Thomas got ill when he was 21.”

Thomas had been having mild seizures and hadn’t been able to finish his sentences when his parents took him to A&E.

“As soon as he found out about the tumour, the first thing he said was ‘what about the kids mum?’ He was the first of five and so close to his other siblings.”

Thomas had an operation but surgeons couldn’t remove all of the 5cm tumour. Despite radiotherapy, his condition deteriorated and Thomas died in November 2020.

“When Thomas passed away, the Children’s Bereavement Centre called us. We found out that before he died, he had contacted them about counselling for the children – he’d already put it in place for his brother and sisters. He just wanted everyone else to be ok.”

Thomas and Emma – his childhood sweetheart – had brought forward their wedding to September 2020. He died just two months later.

Thomas’s funeral took place during Covid, with limited numbers. When Emma got home, she had an email waiting, saying Thomas had passed his Masters in Urban Planning – she’d submitted it for him. He had completed everything – despite his brain tumour – except his dissertation.

Emma, mum, dad Ric and Thomas’s siblings – Belle, William, Lucie, and Emily – all went to Sheffield Hallam University for the graduation ceremony, with his younger siblings going up on stage to accept his certificate.

The family did a lot of fundraising to give something back to the unit where Thomas was cared for – and to give something that Thomas himself loved.

“We thought PlayStations would allow patients to communicate with others, play with their mates, without having to leave their room if they are not feeling up to it. If Thomas had had one, he would have been able to maybe play with William at home.”

“Thomas had hope till the very end,” said Angela. “That was really important to him, and to us. And even though you knew what stage he was at, you allowed him that, and we’re very, very grateful for that. It really made him feel that every single step of the way – even right at the end – that there was hope.”

Karen cared for Thomas during his time on Hogarth. She thanked the family for making such a tough journey back to the place that had such memories for them.

“It’s such a kindness – knowing what it is like to have someone young going through that and recognising that anything that can make that experience feel less clinical, a sense of a bit of home within our department. A PlayStation can be something many young people really miss from home.

“Some of our patients benefit from the social area but sometimes you don’t want to see other people going through a similar thing, and they might be at a different stage, or have something very different go on and that can be hard, so being able to make that decision for themselves and stay in their rooms – but still being able to communicate with others, is really important.

“And some of the treatments, risk of infections, for example, mean they can’t always leave the ward so anything like this that brightens it up for them or takes their minds off what they’re going through is really helpful. We are so grateful, we are overwhelmed, thank you so much.”

Jamie Lawson, Teenage and Young adult Cancer Lead Nurse for the Teenage Cancer Trust (East Midlands), said: “Thank you for this kind and thoughtful gift to the unit. This will provide much-needed distraction and enjoyment for the young people that have treatment on the teenage and young adult unit.”

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