Starlight turns scary hospital stays into fun, happy adventures
As a tiny baby just three days old, Lauren was rushed to intensive care for life-saving surgery. This operation turned out to be the first of 130 operations that the smiling 10-year-old has had since then. By her side at every operation is her favourite teddy "Smelly Bear", who's sprayed with perfume as they head into surgery so there's no yucky anaesthetic smell.
Lauren was born with Tracheo Oesophageal Fistula and Oesophageal Atresia (a rare congenital condition affecting the respiratory system, swallowing and digestion). To manage her illness, long and stressful stays in hospital are a sad reality. In the last year alone, Lauren has spent 28 weeks in hospital. That doesn't leave a lot of time to do the fun stuff she loves like dressing up, playing with her dolls and dancing.
So Captain Starlight helps fill that gap with games, face painting, fun makeovers and lots of laughs. Her mum Sue says not only does Captain Starlight help take away her fear, but most importantly she can just be a little girl. And what does Lauren think of Captain Starlight? Two words: "So funny!" Lauren says Starlight is like her hospital family, and she loves that Captain Starlight visits her when she's too sick to leave the ward.
Whether Lauren's in hospital for tests, a short admission or long surgery, she always visits the Starlight Express Room.
When anyone asks Lauren about her time in hospital she will always rattle off all her amazing adventures in the Starlight Express Room.Sue, Lauren's mum
One story Lauren loves to tell is when she got to wear the crown of none other than Miss Universe! She said it was "so pretty", and it's one of her favourite memories of the Starlight Express Room.
Her mum said the impact Starlight has had on the family is immeasurable.
I can't imagine Lauren's journey over the last 12 months alone without the incredibly uplifting Captain Starlight - she is distracted from not just the physical pain but also the emotional pain.Sue, Lauren's mum
Given so much of Lauren's life is spent in hospital, her family often feels split between two homes. Lauren adores her four brothers and sisters and mum Sue says it's so hard on them seeing their little sister go through so much.
But thankfully the Starlight Express Room gives the whole family somewhere fun to be together. Sue said: "I really love that Captain Starlight treats patients and siblings equally. In the whole medical journey it's so easy for siblings to be ignored a little, but Captain Starlight knows each of them by name." Sue describes the Starlight Express Room as their sanctuary.
The memories created by Captain Starlight are so magical that I know in years to come it will be those memories my beautiful girl will still have of her time in hospital, not of all the pain. And that has to be the most precious gift for all of us.Sue, Lauren's mum
Recently, Lauren received a Starlight Wish - to be a Princess at her very own Royal Ball. What made it even more special was that she wanted all the other sick kids to be a part of it too - so what better venue than the Starlight Express Room! Lauren got to design her own dress (which was made especially for her by a costume designer), have her hair and make-up done professionally with her best friend Akira by her side, enjoy a delicious princess cake and cupcakes and share the day with her hospital friends and Captain Starlight. Her mum said the whole day was truly everything Lauren had dreamed it would be and more. Pretty spectacular, right?
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