Nola’s Story

“Nola was so poorly she couldn’t meet Santa…the Play team were our Angels in a time of need”

Like many parents, Gemma and Mike were excited to take their daughter Nola to see Santa. But sadly Nola couldn’t go – it would risk catching a virus, and instead she had to remain at home while other families made special Christmas memories together.

When Nola was just 10 months old her parents had noticed she was frequently becoming poorly. After tests at Wythenshawe Hospital she was diagnosed with neutropenia – a low white blood cell count, making it difficult to fight infections.

As Nola’s white blood cell count was so low, she had to be treated as if she had sepsis, and over the next few years she would be in and out of hospital every time she became poorly. In three years she was in 21 times, each stay lasting around four days.

Picture Caption: Nola asleep in her hospital bed

Mum Gemma said: “I had to give up my job as there was no way I could work when we spent so much time in hospital. Also, knowing Nola would need to go into hospital at any given moment, it just wasn’t feasible for me to have a job.

“It affected her dad’s mental health. It affected her brother too as he was only seven at the time. He didn’t really understand Nola’s condition and he was worried about her all the time. Even now, if he hears her cry he is by her side immediately asking what’s wrong.”

Frequent stays in hospital also affected Nola. She became scared of needles and scared of people because she feared they would want to put a cannula in or do something painful. Outside of hospital, Nola was unable to do the normal things toddlers enjoy like attending nursery or going to soft play areas – instead remaining at home to ensure she didn’t catch any illnesses and need more hospital stays, especially during winter.

But the light at the end of the tunnel were the play staff, making Nola’s hospital admissions easier to cope with.

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Picture Caption: Nola playing in her hospital bed in the Starlight Unit at Wythenshawe

Gemma said: “The Play Team were just fantastic. They were so thoughtful towards Nola and all of us. She couldn’t leave the room because of her weakened immune system, so they would bring mats and toys to enable her to play in her room.

“Nola had to be in hospital for her first Easter, so they surprised her with a giant teddy with a hospital band on as an Easter gift. They also made such an effort to get to know her and make sure that she was as calm as possible when she was getting her cannula put in- they learnt that she loved Mr Tumble, so they’d always put that on for her. They were just so thoughtful.”

And it wasn’t just Nola that the Play Team supported – they were there for all the family members.

“Nola’s older brother Ollie has autism, so he found the constant change of routine very difficult,” said Gemma. “The Play Team were fantastic with him too, and they just looked after all of us.

“Often, the play specialists would tell her dad and I to go to the parents’ room and  have a sit, a brew, and some time out while they spent time playing with Nola. They really were a God send. Our hospital experience would have been so different without them they are angels!”

Nola’s treatment was successful, and although her condition means that she still suffers with being extremely poorly, she no longer has to go to hospital every time she gets ill.

Picture Caption: A happy Nola, now aged six, at home

Nola is now six years old and was interested to learn more about being a baby and her stays in hospital. When she heard what had happened, she decided to cut off her hair to fundraise for our Charity. Nola hopes the money she raises will make a difference to the children who are being treated on the Starlight Ward.

If you’d like to support our Charity this Christmas, just like Nola, click the button below.


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About Manchester Foundation Trust Charity

Manchester Foundation Trust Charity supports continuing excellence in treatment, research and care in our family of hospitals across Manchester and Trafford, comprising:

Manchester Royal Infirmary | Wythenshawe Hospital | Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital
Manchester Royal Eye Hospital | Saint Mary’s Hospital | Manchester University Dental Hospital
Withington Community Hospital | Trafford General Hospital | Altrincham Hospital
North Manchester General Hospital

As a charity our mission is simple: to support the excellence in treatment, research and care we provide to the 2.5 million patients who are treated by our hospitals each year. We want to make a real difference to the people we treat – young and old – by making sure that they continue to receive the very best treatment in the very best facilities.

Your support today could make a real and lasting difference this Christmas and all year round.

Thank you.