Rio, one, and Ben, 92, in hospital campaign

Rio Vicary, aged one, his mum Gemma Wright, Ben Abbott, aged 92, Simon Morritt (left), chief executive of the Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust, and David Vernon-Edawards, director of the The Children's Hospital charity, are pictured at the fundraising launch at The Sheffield Children's Hospital.
Rio Vicary, aged one, his mum Gemma Wright, Ben Abbott, aged 92, Simon Morritt (left), chief executive of the Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust, and David Vernon-Edawards, director of the The Children's Hospital charity, are pictured at the fundraising launch at The Sheffield Children's Hospital.

FOR the parents of a one-year-old boy, it is the place where their son has spent most of his life because of a one-in-a-million illness.

For a 92-year-old man, it is where his life was saved when he was a youngster.

They came together this week to show their support for the campaign to raise £20m towards the proposed £40m redevelopment of Sheffield Children’s Hospital.

Rio Vicary, from Bents Green, was born with Angelman’s Syndrome and is also an albino - an extremely rare combination.

Seen by a dozen consultants at the children’s hospital, he may never walk and will not talk. He hardly sleeps but likes to play, recognises music and responds to bright lights.

People with AS are sometimes known as ‘angels’, because of the syndrome’s name and their youthful, happy appearance. The condition causes intellectual and developmental delay, sleep disturbances and frequent laughter or smiling.

Rio’s mum Gemma Wright, aged 27, welcomed the prospect of better wards and single rooms, which will give families more space, privacy and dignity.

“We’ve spent months here and it’s so hard to sleep in a hospital,” she said. Sometimes there are other unwell children very close to you who keep you awake – not their fault of course, but it makes it hard.”

Rio was sent home last week following the removal of a tracheostomy tube and an operation on his mouth, but he was soon back and, not for the first time, his life was saved in theatre.

Gemma said: “Outdoor spaces would be great for getting Rio some light and fresh air and would also be wonderful for my other children, Cody and Jadyn, for when they visit. I don’t really like to bring them to the ward to visit, but if we could all go out in the garden that would be so much better.”

She added: “Rio is doing brilliantly now, breathing on his own, making sounds and laughing. He’s our little angel.”

Ben Abbott, who lives in Paddock Hill Care Home in Gleadless, donated £500 to the Children’s Hospital Charity in appreciation for hospital saving his life 89 years ago.

From a poor family in Meersbrook, he first went to the hospital when he was three and had diphtheria. He continued to attend on numerous occasions until around the age of nine, suffering from malnutrition and various other illnesses.

He remembers boarding at Bents Green Open Air School, going home in the summer and at Christmas.

Ben, who went on to work at Laycock Engineering for 50 years, living in Lees Hall Road, said: “I’m so pleased to be asked to help with the launch of the charity’s campaign. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. I feel really privileged.

“I don’t really remember a lot about actually going to the hospital, but I remember my mum saying it saved my life.

“I decided that when I sold my home I wanted to give some money to The Children’s Hospital to say ‘thank you’ to the lovely people for what they did for me all those years ago.”

“If we didn’t have The Children’s Hospital in Sheffield, I wouldn’t be here today. I wish the charity all the best with their campaign.”