Reader Profile: Darren Smith

Published: 25 July, 2011 - Featured in Skin Deep 201, July, 2011

There’s no better kick than being able to let a reader tell their own story. That becomes even more of a good thing when you can use your influence to give something back to the people who make this world a better place to live in. This month, I’m handing over the pens to Darren Smith.

My son Jordan has had to make some big decisions in his life. Born with his bladder outside his body, he has already faced a series of grueling operations to correct his rare birth abnormality which affects just one in 40,000 children born in Britain each year.

But while most boys his age would have cried the house down at having to spend weeks away from their home to have life-changing surgery at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London, he has never been one to complain and has always taken the daily turmoil connected to his condition in his stride; and Jordan recently faced up to another major operation to treat his condition.

He has been in and out of Great Ormond Street since the day he was born, and unlike other boys his age has been unable to enjoy spending as much time as he would like playing with his pals back home in Pontarddulais, Swansea.

In May 2010 we had a week-long break to Majorca with other families and their children who have been treated at Great Ormond Street. All the families spent the week in the sun and we all watched our children make new friends and learn to smile again as they played games and swam in the pool, and at their hotel in Palma where we met celebrities including EastEnders star Steve McFadden and Coronation Street actress Sue Cleaver.

All of the families on the trip were also treated to a special night at a pirate-themed party on the island and it was at that point that I decided it was about time I gave something back as a small thank you for the amazing work they have done in treating Jordan – there was lots of talk from the other dad’s on the trip about various ways of raising money for GOSH, most of which involved running. I get out of breath running the bath let alone running a marathon, so I started throwing the idea around of getting the GOSH logo tattooed on my arm under sponsorship but this idea quickly evolved into something much bigger.

As the theme of the week was pirates, I decided to go with that theme for my tattoo. After talking to my friend and tattoo artist Leigh Rees of Pleasure or Pain Productions in Abadare, South Wales, we started developing ideas for the tattoo. We had lots of pictures of the main characters from the show so they seemed like a good place to start. I decided to include Lord Mellion, Jaques Lafette and Sir Henry Morgan, and the ship from the show, La Hispaniola, and of course the Great Ormond Street logo, but apart from that I left it all up to Leigh. 

The support I have had from Pleasure or Pain is amazing – Leigh didn’t take any sort of payment for the tattoo, so all the money I have collected so far will go directly to Great Ormond Street. So with the agreement of Shaun Maddy (the owner of the studio), we started our 28-hour tattoo marathon. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt, but no matter how uncomfortable the four-hour sittings got I always kept in the back of my mind that it was nothing compared to the pain Jordan has endured during his surgeries, and he never complained once.

The doctors knew something was wrong as soon as Jordan was born and after I cut his umbilical cord, but they had no idea what the problem was. They were really puzzled and told us they had not seen anything like it before. My wife, Melanie, just lay there after giving birth as the doctors and nurses at Singleton Hospital in Swansea phoned other hospitals trying to find out what could be wrong with Jordan. It was a very worrying time as we were in the dark too and did not know what was going to happen next, and as doctors tried to diagnose the abnormality, little did we know that just a few hours later we would be rushed 300 miles to Great Ormond Street where Jordan faced a six-hour operation to have his bladder inserted back inside his tiny body.

We had no option. Melanie had just given birth but the doctors in Swansea told us that the best treatment for him would be available at Great Ormond Street. So just a few hours after his birth we packed our bags and headed to London by ambulance.

The following hours were crucial as doctors performed delicate surgery to ensure Jordan's bladder was placed back inside his body. It was a very worrying time for us all. We could not believe that we were suddenly in London with Jordan, just hours after he had been born. He endured a six-hour operation and we were given no indication by the doctors how things were going. 

Anyone who has been in our position knows that doctors just walk through the wards with expressionless faces and we did not know what to expect. Thankfully, Jordan pulled through but later that night we faced further agony after one of his lungs collapsed – that was when we all began to panic. At that time, Melanie and I both thought it was the end of him. We must have walked 100 miles around the hospital that night as we prayed for him to pull through and we spent the next month in hospital with him as he recovered.

Jordan is more or less back to normal now – or as much as he can be. He loves playing with his brothers, Ashley and Callum. He roughs them up and they rough him up as if nothing has happened. That trip to Spain lifted Jordan's spirits immeasurably and being in the sun made a world of difference. We want to thank Great Ormond Street so much. They need to raise £5 million every year to help treat and save the life of children like Jordan, and without GOSH, we truly believe that he wouldn’t be with us today.

He met other children on the trip who have all received treatment at Great Ormond Street and he has made many friends and not once did Jordan ask what was wrong with them, he just took them for who they are. It is amazing how resilient kids are – and I can’t let this opportunity go by without also thanking our parents who rallied around and looked after them while we were in London with Jordan.

You can show your support for Great Ormond Street by visiting www.justgiving.com/tattoo4gosh

Please dig deep – I know times are tough but so are 6-hour operations, so please help if you can.

Pleasure Or Pain Productions

26 Cardiff Street, 
Aberdare 
CF44 7DP 

contact 01685 875 252

Credits

Text & Photography: Darren Smith

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