Santa launches our Christmas appeal with some help from a lucky former Sick Kids patient

Kieran Burns, with mum Miranda and Santa Claus, is given a tour of the mobile grotto
Kieran Burns, with mum Miranda and Santa Claus, is given a tour of the mobile grotto
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RUNNING around in his denim dungarees, young Kieran Burns couldn’t be happier.

The blonde-haired, blue-eyed toddler has just been introduced to Santa Claus and is happily kicking his ball around while he waits his turn to catch a glimpse inside Santa’s grotto.

His mum, Miranda, a pharmacist from the Braids, looks on with pride as her bubbly two-year-old – who is longing for toy cars and trains for Christmas – excitedly chases after the ball.

When the mother-of-two reflects on the festive period two years ago, however, her smile fades.

At just nine weeks old, Kieran had to be admitted to the Sick Kids after contracting bronchiolitis, a respiratory infection affecting babies and young children, caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

What started with a cough and blocked nose had deteriorated with alarming speed to the point where Kieran was on a drip and being fed by a tube through his tiny nose.

For Miranda and her accountant husband, Mark, both 38, it was quite simply the worst few days of their lives.

Happily, they can look back now with nothing but gratitude for the amazing staff at the Sick Kids.

Today, they helped the Evening News to launch our Christmas appeal, which this year aims to spread a little festive cheer to children across the Capital – especially those who find themselves in hospital at this time of year – and in the process raise some vital funds for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.

Recalling Kieran’s five days in hospital as a baby, Miranda says: “The thought did cross my mind as to whether or not kids can die from bronchiolitis.

“I felt like I should ask the doctors how bad it could get, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to know the answer. I couldn’t bring myself to go there, I was too scared.

“The only thing the doctors said about it was that Kieran might need to go into intensive care where they would forcibly open his airways.”

Fortunately, that didn’t happen and, unlike some children at the Sick Kids, Kieran went on to make a full recovery.

However, Miranda adds: “At the worst point, Kieran was on a drip and had a humidity box over his head to help with his breathing. It was really tough seeing him like that.

“It’s the worry of not knowing what’s going to happen next or how bad it’s going to get. It felt like everything had been turned upside down.”

Miranda, who was on her maternity leave at the time, remained by Kieran’s bedside while Mark cared for their daughter, Sara, now four, who couldn’t be in contact with her baby brother in case she contracted the infection.

“It can be really serious in under-twos because their lungs are so small,” Miranda explains.

At 7am on Christmas morning 2009, five days after being admitted to hospital, Kieran was discharged and spent his first Christmas at home – something his parents had feared wouldn’t happen.

“It was absolutely the best Christmas present we ever could have,” Miranda smiles. “We were really lucky because we knew other people at the Sick Kids who wouldn’t be getting out for Christmas.”

The Burns family have never forgotten the “fantastic, supportive” staff at the hospital and what they did for Kieran, as well as the less fortunate children who are having to spend this Christmas in hospital.

Last year, they donated Christmas presents to children at the Sick Kids and plan to do the same again this month.

Miranda adds: “When Kieran was in hospital, we got a visit from Santa at 1am on Christmas morning with a sack full of presents, including a toy caterpillar and a knitted jacket, hat and gloves. It was just such a lovely thing and we were really touched by it.

“When things were so bad, there were people who didn’t know us and probably never will who had knitted clothes for Kieran. To think that somebody had gone to that amount of effort was really lovely.

“You don’t think about all the children who are in hospital over Christmas until you’re there yourself.”

As part of our Christmas appeal, we have teamed up with Lothian Buses and Jenners to create a Santa’s grotto – of which Kieran enjoyed a sneak preview – which will tour around the Capital, stopping to welcome visitors at various locations which we will publicise over the coming weeks.

Santa is taking time out from his busy schedule at Dobbies Garden World’s Melville grotto and we are extremely grateful for the support of Tesco Hermiston Gait and the new Decathlon sports store at Hermiston Gait Retail Park. Youngsters visiting the grotto will receive a small free gift and their parents will be invited to make a donation to our appeal.

All funds raised will go to the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, which this Christmas is aiming to help children with sight impairments by providing the Sick Kids and Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion with their own dedicated equipment, including a fundus camera – which photographs the interior surface of the eye to monitor the progression of a disease or help with diagnosis – and upgrading the children’s waiting area at the Eye Pavilion where several children at the Sick Kids have outpatient appointments.

You can help by dropping off presents at the donation points listed above or simply by visiting our travelling grotto and making a donation.

Please leave any presents unwrapped so that hospital staff can be sure the gifts are appropriate for the child who will receive them. The hospital can only accept new presents and food items should not be donated. Gifts for infants (aged up to two years, particularly under six months) and children aged ten years or over are particularly welcome.

The Sick Kids Friends Foundation suggests Amazon vouchers for patients who are over 16.

Maureen Harrison, chief executive of the foundation, says: “Thank you from all of us at the Sick Kids Friends Foundation to everyone who takes the time to help make sick kids better.”

Lothian Buses managing director Ian Craig adds: “We wanted to bring extra festive cheer to the Capital, thank passengers for their continued support and loyalty throughout 2011, and give something back to the local community.”

Jenners general manager Louise Masson says: “Our visual team enjoyed the challenge of decorating the bus in true festive style with a Lothian Regional Transport theme.”

Simon Martin, Dobbies Melville general manager, says: “We’re delighted to help out. As soon as we heard that the bus was Santa-less, he was more than happy to lend a hand.

“He’s very happy that all children in the area will get a chance to meet him in a festive grotto this year.”

IT’S A WRAP

PRESENTS can be dropped off at the

four Lothian Buses Travelshops

Waverley Bridge Travelshop,

31 Waverley Bridge

Opening hours:

Monday-Friday 0900-1800

Saturday 1000-1800

Sunday 1000-1715

Jarnac Court, Dalkeith

Opening hours:

Monday-Friday 0930-1645

(closed 1130-1200)

Hanover Street Travelshop,

27 Hanover Street

Opening hours:

Monday-Friday 0900-1800

Saturday 1000-1800

Sunday closed

Shandwick Place

Travelshop, 7 Shandwick Place

Opening hours:

Monday-Friday 0900-1800

Saturday 1000-1800

Sunday closed