One mum who spoke to Peter and Matt for some time told her story of her little boy. “He was born one pound eight ounces and you look at him eighteen months down the line and he has defied all the odds and defied every doctor who said he wouldn’t live,” she said. “That wee boy’s a little fighter,” Peter told me. “It must be so tough on the parents of all those youngsters. Going to see the children made my day and I’m sure the same could be said of all our lads when they saw how our visit made the children smile.”
The staff wanted to pose for photos with the players too and it wasn’t missed by the boys exactly how hard they work. “They do an incredible job,” Peter went on. “It’s frightening the things they must see and I’m pretty sure there are tears shed at night when they go home after a shift. I don’t think a nursing job is a twelve hour shift. I think it’s twenty-four hours, every day of the year. I don’t know if it’s fatherhood that’s done this to me, but it has definitely hit home how fortunate I am to have a healthy little boy.”
Stephen O’ Donnell was also touched by the visit and talked about the effect it had on him. “It’s humbling to be honest. Obviously it’s good to be able to give back a wee bit with the job that we’ve got. It was an eye opener for me. The kids I went to see were the ones who were just in and out in a day and I was amazed at how bright they were considering they had been in for operations. They were really happy to see us. It made me think of how I felt after an operation and you’re well out of it afterwards but wee Mikey in particular was so bright and alert. He was a good example for me that if anything ever happened again just to get on with it. You don’t realise sometimes how easy it is for us to give a little bit back.
“Some of the boys were telling me that they had visited the wards where some of the children were very ill and they said it brought them down to earth with a bang. It makes you see what you’ve got. You might moan and think things are hard for yourself, but from what the boys were telling me these kids have really got things to moan about. You realise how lucky you are when you see some of those kids and it’s a boot up the bum really. Some of those kids will be in there over Christmas and that’s tough.”
Asked how it felt to know that he and the team had made the day of so many children and staff Stephen said, “It’s just amazing to have that effect. It’s not a big thing for the boys and it’s not a long time either and if it makes a difference then that’s brilliant.”
Photographs by Jacqui Robertson