Without the staff at Southmead Hospital, I dread to think where we would be today. In 2017, my sister Harriet was diagnosed with the rare Unicentric Castleman’s disease. It caused a tumour on her hip and a skin disease called Paraneoplastic Pemphigus. She underwent surgery to have the tumour removed but has been left with scarring and a lung condition.
Through it all, the team at Southmead – and the immunology department in particular – have been remarkable in helping Harriet manage her complex illnesses.
I’m a hairdresser and my hair is definitely a big part of my personality. One day in the salon we were joking about shaving it off and it got me thinking about doing it to raise money for the team who had cared for my sister so brilliantly.
It was a bit of a challenge to convince my family that it was a good idea. They had witnessed my sister losing her hair when she was really poorly so they were understandably cautious. I was inspired by the way Harriet had handled her illnesses, and the side effects such as hair loss and scarring. If she can get through all of that, I knew I could deal with shaving my head.
I set the date of the head shave to coincide with the fourth anniversary of Harriet’s operation and, of course, allowed Harriet to do the honours!
I may have been left with a bald, fluffy head for a few months, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Our NHS has been working so hard to keep us safe throughout the pandemic and it felt special to support our local hospitals at this time. Giving back makes you feel amazing and it costs you nothing but kindness.
The response from family and friends to my head shave fundraiser was incredible. We ended up raising more than £2,500 for the immunology department. Although Harriet has been left with a life-limiting lung condition, we still have her with us. For that, we are eternally grateful to everyone involved in her care over the years.
Like Olivia, you can fundraise your way for your local NHS in Bristol. Please contact Hannah to start raising money today.