10 January 2023
Southampton Children’s Hospital has unveiled a new mascot for poorly children on the paediatric high dependency unit (PHDU) in memory of patient Elsie Lark Binney-Martin who lost her life to a rare disease in 2019.
The new giraffe mascot will be given to every child who is admitted to PHDU in hope that it gives some comfort and courage during difficult times.
Elsie Lark, from Winchester, was born in June 2018 but at seven weeks old she became seriously ill with breathing difficulties and was taken to The Royal Hampshire County Hospital, where she was ventilated to help her breathe while the clinical team tried to stabilise her.
It was decided very quickly that Elsie would require more specialist care and so the Southampton Oxford Retrieval Team (SORT) were called and Elsie made the journey to Southampton Children’s Hospital.
During her time in hospital Elsie was given a giraffe teddy which she soon became inseparable from and her mum, Helena Martin, was given a giraffe necklace – giraffes soon became a symbol of hope for the whole family.
Elsie sadly died on 2 August 2019 from what was later discovered to be an extremely rare condition affecting the development of her lungs and heart – Patchy Alveola Capillary Dysplasia with Misalignment of the pulmonary veins (ACD/MVP).
Without a lung transplantation, infants with ACD/MPV are unlikely to survive past their first year, and most affected infants live only a few weeks.
After her death the family decided they wanted to give back to the hospital that had helped them during such a difficult time in their lives, so they created The Elsie Lark Fund with Southampton Hospitals Charity, and began fundraising.
Helena said: “The staff at Southampton Children’s Hospital became our friends and confidants and we owe our gratitude to them for giving us such a great deal of time to be able to watch our child grow.
“Without the retrieval team and the support of PHDU, Elsie was unlikely to have survived past her initial admission.
“The units are small and continuously run at full capacity while juggling the most seriously ill children from across Hampshire and managing the expectations of their families. The Elsie Lark Fund was set up in Elsie’s name to help support the incredible work they do.”
The fund has currently raised £14,000 in support of Southampton’s PHDU which has funded the giraffe initiative.
The family have also raised enough funds to provide a lifesaving piece of equipment for the retrieval team to use in the air ambulance and specialist children’s ambulance.
Helena added: “It’s an absolute honour for Elsie’s legacy to live on in this manner. Each child will have a little companion to help them though their hospital journey and everyone will be made to feel part of a loving environment rather than just another ward in the hospital.
“What’s especially touching is the note on the label “Love from, Elsie xx” and, rather poignantly, one of the first recipients was her friend Sienna, who had shared many a hospital stay with her.
“Being sent pictures of her smiling while proudly cuddling the giraffe toy made us very emotional.”
In 2020 the family welcomed new baby Ada Phoenix, loving sister to Elsie. The family continue to raise money in Elsie’s memory.