Cambridge sixth-former Lucy Stafford spreads bundles of love from her hospital bed

PUBLISHED: 12:40 15 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:36 16 June 2017

Lucy Stafford, YOPEY nominee, at home in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Lucy Stafford, YOPEY nominee, at home in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

A student at The Leys School who has faced a lifetime of health challenges is helping other young people to cope with long stays in hospital.

Lucy Stafford, of Hills Road, Cambridge, who has faced a lifetime of health challenges, is helping other young people cope with long stays in hospital with her 'Hospital Love Bundles'Lucy Stafford, of Hills Road, Cambridge, who has faced a lifetime of health challenges, is helping other young people cope with long stays in hospital with her 'Hospital Love Bundles'

A Cambridge teenager who has faced a lifetime of health challenges as a result of a rare genetic condition is helping other young people to cope with long stays in hospital.

Despite being on an antibiotic drip, fighting a serious infection and being fed by tube directly into her heart, Lucy Stafford, of Hills Road, is keeping her and others’ spirits up.

Her Hospital Love Bundles are tailored goodie bags filled with essentials and little luxuries like slipper socks and chocolate bars – but not snakes!

Lucy says she tries to fulfil the likes and dislikes of her ‘customers’. “But the strangest request I’ve had so far is to not include a snake in a Love Bundle,” chuckled the 17-year-old from her on hospital bed.

That spirit has resulted in her being nominated for the LifePlus Cambridgeshire Young People of the Year awards, or YOPEYs, which are Oscars for young people who give to others.

Lucy was put forward by Martin Priestley, head of The Leys School, Cambridge, who said: “Lucy is one of our sixth-form pupils and has a rare genetic condition that requires long hospital stays for treatment.

“In the light of her own experience she wanted to brighten up young people’s time in hospital and so she set up Hospital Love Bundles, dispatching comfy socks, puzzle books, hair accessories and games to bring cheer to 13- to 21-year-olds in hospital.

Lucy Stafford has been nominated for a YOPEY awardLucy Stafford has been nominated for a YOPEY award

“She has set up a website to publicise the scheme, appealed for funding and invited nominations and requests for Love Bundles to be sent to recipients.”

Lucy has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which causes her digestive tract to fail, and she has been fed via a tube to her intestine and can suffer dislocations of her joints most days.

She has had EDS since birth and spent long periods in hospital over the years. Most recently, she had a spell in Addenbrooke’s from before Christmas into the new year and was readmitted in March after contracting sepsis. This was complicated by Lucy now receiving liquid nutrients into a vein – called parenteral nutrition.

Despite being hooked up to tubes in a hospital room, Lucy is continuing her school studies and masterminding her Love Bundles.

She said Love Bundles were inspired by her own experience of hospital. “The staff try their best, but being in hospital can be a bit dreary,” she says.

The hospital system mainly treats those under 16 in children’s wards and those above in adult wards. “We’re a bit too old for one and a bit too young for the other ward – we’re the in-betweeners,” she said.

“In December and January I had my first long admission to an adult ward and while, of course, everybody here is lovely, I really noticed the age gap.

"But teenagers are still young and still facing the challenges of missing school and missing their friends. And when we’re in hospital we do need something that says someone is thinking of you, keep going. So I looked at putting together little packages of gifts and sending them to young people"

Lucy Stafford

“But teenagers are still young and still facing the challenges of missing school and missing their friends. And when we’re in hospital we do need something that says someone is thinking of you, keep going. So I looked at putting together little packages of gifts and sending them to young people,” Lucy said.

Love Bundles were launched this year and around 100 packages have been sent out so far. The website hospitallovebundles.com asks for recipients to give their requirements, favourite colours, hobbies and interests, dietary requirements and likes and dislikes – no snakes!

An unlikely luxury, which everyone gets, are slipper socks. “Unless you’ve spent a long time in hospital you won’t know how much of a necessity they are – I’ve become a bit of an expert on them,” said Lucy.

Donations are invited but not obligatory and Lucy has had gifts of money from friends and family and the generous support of businesses she has canvassed.

Grateful recipients have told Lucy how much they have appreciated their Love Bundles, saying its arrival made a difference when they were having a bad week.

“It’s nice to know that someone has received it and liked it,” she said. “And it’s nice to think that I still have a purpose and something to work towards, that makes a difference and I’m not just wasting my days away.”

Lucy is studying A-level chemistry and biology but, because of her current medical challenges, has had to shelve her hope of becoming a doctor for perhaps a medical research role.

Lucy Stafford YOPEY nominee at home in Cambridge, with mum Kate and sister Caroline. Picture: Keith HeppellLucy Stafford YOPEY nominee at home in Cambridge, with mum Kate and sister Caroline. Picture: Keith Heppell

“I know first-hand how important that is, looking at illnesses we cannot cure or treat. I have my ups and downs and I have the support of my family and friends. Some days, like today, I don’t know what’s going on with my health. I know it will improve and I’m holding on to that.”

Lucy’s mum Kate is proud of how she is coping. “Things have been really tough but she keeps on going,” she said.

YOPEYs founder Tony Gearing said: “Being in hospital can be tough, and when it’s for a long time and you’re a young person or teenager in a children’s or an adult ward, you will need some good things to lift you.

“Lucy knows how tough it can be and her Hospital Love Bundles are helping others and herself get back to health.”

For the moment, Lucy will get back to her Love Bundles, updating the website, dealing with requests, donations, her suppliers and sending a little bundle of happiness to her customers.

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