Sarah Parish and Jim Murray
Sarah Parish is well known for her TV work and has starred in Mistresses, Peak Practice, Cutting It, Hearts and Bones, Doctor Who, Merlin and most recently Munroe. She met her now husband, James Murray, whilst they were both working on Cutting It. James has also starred in various different TV programmes, notably, Primeval.

Sarah and James’ relationship with Friends of PICU began in May 2008 when their daughter, Ella-Jayne, was born with a very serious heart defect and she was admitted to PICU. This is their story in Sarah’s words:

“My husband and I were terrified at what the future would bring for our little girl and under huge stress and pressure to get our heads around what was happening.

The 1st person we were introduced to in PICU was Rosie Mitchell. She was the nurse looking after our daughter and she immediately sat us down and talked us through every machine we could see, every intimidating bleep and alarm we could hear and every observation she was making. We felt safe and reassured to be around people with so much experience and knowledge and during our time in PICU we came to realise just how important the unit was.

Our daughter, Ella-Jayne, had 2 major surgerys while she was in Southampton and was looked after in PICU both times. After the second operation, it looked as though we would lose Ella-Jayne, but thanks to the determination and hard work from everyone at PICU she pulled through and we were able to take her home.

There was always the under lying threat that Ella-Jayne wouldn't make it to her 1st Birthday and sure enough, on the 3rd of January 2009 she passed away. Everything that could have been done had been done for her, but she was a very sick little girl and couldn't hold on any longer.

We have the most wonderful memories of Ella-Jayne at home with us in those last 4 months of her life and we have PICU to thank for that. They made her well enough to come home and enjoy the rest of her life with her parents so when we were asked by Rosie, the 1st nurse who looked after Ella-Jayne, to become the patrons of Friends of PICU, we were delighted to accept and set ourselves the challenge of raising £100,000.00 to hire a child psychologist for 3 years to be part of the team in PICU. Their job would be to liaise between the parents, the child and the doctors and generally make the whole experience of PICU a little easier to cope with and understand as it can be a frightening experience for both child and parent.

We are a third of the way there having raised just over £33,000.00. We still have a long way to go but have no doubt that eventually we'll get there.”

Sarah and James have undertaken a trek to Vietnam in aid of Friends of PICU and continue to show their support for the charity.
In her December 2010 interview with Easy Living magazine, Sarah spoke of PICU © Easy Living December 2010
“ Ella-Jayne spent half of her life at Southampton General Hospital: she was in the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for quite a long time, where the staff are all brilliant. When Ella-Jayne died, Jim and I really wanted to give something back to them, because they'd given us the time we had with Ella-Jayne at home........when you go to PICU as a parent it's a bloody terrifying experience...she [the psychologist] has been invaluable: the parents are so glad she's there”

Ali Sparkes 
    ‘I felt a bit underqualified when Friends of PICU approached me to become a patron,’ says Ali Sparkes. ‘Of course – nobody wants to be qualified in the sense of having their child in need of the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, but as a mum of two teenage sons, I certainly want to know that this tremendous facility would be there for my family in the event we needed it.’
Ali is a children’s author, with more than 30 books published, mostly with Oxford Children’s Books. Her novel Frozen In Time won the Blue peter Book of the Year Award in 2010. She travels the UK and Ireland and beyond, performing at literary festivals and in schools – and writes at her Southampton home. She grew up visiting Southampton General Hospital quite frequently – as her mum worked there for many years.
‘I come from a nursing family – my mum was a nurse and eventually a ward sister at the General, and my older sister is a practice nurse in Southampton – and my dad and my younger sister are podiatrists (although Dad’s now retired). So I’ve never really had negative associations with visiting hospitals.
‘But I have a writer’s imagination and it doesn’t take much to work out how traumatic it would be to arrive at the General because someone you love is in desperate trouble. Knowing that they are getting the very best of care is something which would, without doubt, ease the agony. What I’ve learned about PICU since getting involved makes me realise how vital it is.
‘Of course, I did have to query my suitability as a patron. After all, in my books I put my young characters through all sorts of trauma from car crashes, explosions and dog attacks to cable car falls, flash floods and tidal waves! Happily, though, as the author, I have the power to make everything alright again.
‘A parent whose child has been critically injured doesn’t have that power. Having a specialised unit at Southampton – serving desperately ill children and teenagers from far beyond the city’s boundaries – is something we cannot do without.’
Ali has committed to supporting Friends of PICU’s events and has already raised funds at a recent event by auctioning a cameo role for one of the PICU member’s children in an upcoming novel (out in January 2013). Next on the agenda are some exciting writing plans for the charity.

‘Stories – and poetry – are a great means of helping families cope with difficult times,’ says Ali. ‘And as this is my thing, I’m excited to be planning some stories with the Friends of PICU, aimed at supporting and cheering PICU families. I’ll be writing them this year – and will keep you posted on the website…’  

PICU medical charity Paediatric Care South Coast, Children's Care South Coast



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