When you are asked to pay five pence for a carrier bag in a store have you ever wondered what happens to the money? Well, in the case of River Island outlets – like the one in Dudley High Street – all profits from sales of carrier bags are donated to national charity Newlife.
Six-year-old Mason Williams from Oakham in Dudley is one of more than 140 children to benefit from this life-changing initiative.
With just half a heart, a unique chromosomal abnormality and Autism, which has resulted in Mason having no awareness of danger, it was vital he had somewhere safe to rest through the night, especially as he wakes often. Now, thanks to bag levy funding from River Island, Mason is safe and snug at night in the £6,345 bed and the rest of the family are able to get some sleep.
Mason is described by his parents Melodie and Paul as a happy little lad with an amazing personality who is into everything particularly trying to climb his bedroom furniture and getting onto his windowsill. But as his condition is life-limiting it means that they have to be extra careful with him, while still allowing him the freedom to be a little boy.
As well as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, Mason is missing around 58 genes, which has resulted in weak and floppy muscles and has a visual impairment and development delay. He needs to be fed through a tube as well as receive oxygen at night. He has a deformity of his feet which means he can’t walk for long and although he can repeat words and phrases, he isn’t able to communicate properly so he points to what he wants.
Due to high pressure in his heart and lungs Mason is unable to have a specialist procedure which would improve blood flow, or be considered for a heart and lung transplant. As a result, his parents and siblings Adam, aged 19, Sadie, 14, Harmonie, 10 and Dominic, seven, treat every day they have with him as a bonus.
Although Mason was sleeping in a cot provided by Sandwell statutory services as the family were living in the borough at the time. However, they were planning to relocate to Dudley when, one night, Mason climbed over the side of his cot and hit the floor. Thankfully he didn’t come to any harm, but his parents were left terrified of what could happen. They approached Sandwell Council for a more suitable bed, but they were instead offered a crashmat. As the family were moving house all the equipment they had received had to be returned when they left the property – but Dudley statutory services weren’t able to offer a replacement.
In desperation, the Williams family contacted Newlife – the largest charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness in the UK – which recognised the urgency of the situation and initially provided the loan of a specialist bed.
Mum Melodie said: “When we first moved it was horrendous as Mason had to sleep in a travel cot in our room. He wouldn’t settle, so I didn’t sleep in case he tried to climb out – it was just too dangerous.
“After about four weeks we applied to Newlife, who were able to get a loan bed to us within 72 hours. Then a few months later we received Mason’s permanent bed – it was much quicker than we thought it would be and it has just been fantastic!
“Mason can go to bed now and he is comfy and safe – and he can’t get out of it and into everything. He might only have half a heart, but he certainly has a lot of energy!”
Newlife Foundation CEO Sheila Brown added: “As local authority budget cuts continue to bite, more and more families are turning to charities like Newlife for specialist equipment which can help transform young lives. Having the national support of River Island is an enormous boost for us.”
She added: “Anyone struggling to access equipment through their statutory services should call our Newlife Nurse Helpline – 0800 902 0095 (free from UK landlines and mobiles) to discuss their individual situation.”
Newlife has funded specialist equipment for 1,419 children in the West Midlands worth over £1,403,013, but there are currently 90 families with equipment needs of £71,903 working with the charity. If you think you could help a child in the county, go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk/westmidlands for further details.
If you would like to find out more about Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children and how to access its services, call the Newlife Nurse Helpline or go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk. Alternatively, contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444, email [email protected]
Pictured: Mason Williams