A mum has created a magical Winter Wonderland window display for her chronically ill daughter – who has been discharged from hospital just in time for Christmas.
Little Erin Sadler is just seven years old – but has spent much of her short life in hospital battling a range of life-limiting conditions, including liver disease, inoperable heart disease, and chronic kidney failure.
Erin, from Colchester, Essex, has to take 22 different medications a day, some of which are taken two or three times daily.
And for the last four years, her mum Helen, 42, has put all the medication packaging and delivery boxes to good use – by creating a magnificent winter wonderland window display for her daughter.
Earlier this week, Erin was discharged from hospital six weeks after being admitted – and was greeted at home by her usual winter wonderland display.
The glittering display features polar bear and penguin figurines – and a showstopper centrepiece of an ice princess on her throne, which sits on a turntable that spins to reveal an impressive ice castle.
Helen said: “We’ve done the winter wonderland display for Erin every year for the past four years – but this year we went all guns blazing, and decided to make it bigger and better.
“Erin knows that we do the wonderland for her, and we try and make it as special as possible. She likes the castle the most, because of how sparkly it is.
“It has a remote control so it’s Erin’s job to turn it all on and off, and she thinks it is ‘so cool’ – no pun intended.”
Little Erin has already undergone a whopping 112 blood transfusions in her life, and last year suffered a heart attack which caused her heart to stop for 16 minutes.
And last month, Helen almost lost her precious only child again, when Erin had to undergo three operations in just four days – all of which were under general anaesthetic.
Combined with all her other serious conditions, the anaesthetic put Erin’s chances of survival on a “knife edge”, according to her mum.
Helen said: “There isn’t another case like hers. She doesn’t have a proper diagnosis for the range of conditions she has – she remains a bit of an illusion.”
The mum-of-one added that usually Erin would help to create the winter wonderland display – but this year, she went into hospital before they could finish it.
She said: “It was even more important that I finished it for her.
“Normally, Erin helps us to create it and put it all together.
“I remember sitting eating Christmas dinner last year thinking how we could make it even bigger this year, and I thought, maybe we could put turntables in – so that’s what we did.
“We use all the medical boxes and packaging that her syringes and her feeding bags get delivered in once a month. I try and recycle as much as I can and re-use it each year.”
Helen added: “We know she doesn’t have an indefinite number of Christmases. But she just doesn’t quit.
“There have been many times where the term ‘knife edge’ has been used – but she just keeps coming back, and she is still her.
“She’s just extraordinary. She’s a hilarious, funny, gorgeous, kind little girl with an amazing zest for life. I have an unwavering faith in her.”
Erin’s first diagnosis came at just 11 months old – and since then she has suffered liver disease, kidney disease, heart diseasy, pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs), and severe hypertension.
Erin’s return home this week comes after 28 days at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London – for almost the entire month of November – where she underwent three operations in four days.
Helen said: “They decided to take out her picc line from her arm, which had been in situ for over two years.
“It’s an incredibly long time for a picc line to be in place, but it was still doing its job.
“But when they took her down and put her under general anaesthetic to remove it, they found it had calcified in her arm, and they couldn’t get it out.
“So they had to put her under again the next day (Nov 24), so a vascular surgeon could come and do it.
“And then two days later, she had another surgery to put a Hickman line in her chest – so they can have central access to her blood when they need it for tests.
“With everything else that she has, and all the medication she is on, the general anaesthetic could have killed her – but she defied the odds and survived.”
Now, Erin is home with her mum and granddad, and finally enjoying her best-ever winter wonderland display.
And Helen has also set up a text-in fund for people who enjoy the window display, with all donations going to the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity.
She said: “We’re not inviting people to the house to come see the display, because of how high-risk Erin is.
“But if anyone sees it on Erin’s Facebook page and enjoys it, I would love them to help raise money for the Rainbow Trust – which has done so much to support Erin.”
To donate, text 70490 with the word ERIN, followed by the number of pounds you wish to donate – either 3 for £3, 5 for £5, 10 for £10, or 20 for £20.
To visit Erin’s Facebook page, search ‘Erin the Warrior and her zest for life’.