Welwyn boy with rare genetic disorder inspires Lister's sensory room

Small boy with blonde hair lying in hospital bed in Lister Hospital, Stevenage, surrounded by toys from the film Toy Story.

"Elliot can't wait in the normal waiting room because he's got no immune system." - Credit: Vikki Mason

A disabled six-year-old from Welwyn Garden City is at the forefront of a campaign to build a safe waiting room for vulnerable young people in Lister Hospital's new children's A&E unit. 

Elliot Jay Harridge weighed just three pounds when he was born six weeks premature at Lister Hospital, Stevenage.

He was born with a rare chromosome disorder. So rare that the condition doesn't have a name. Elliot went straight to intensive care and was given breathing support through a CPAP machine.

Three months later, Lister diagnosed him and "he's been at Lister and Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, ever since" with complicated medical needs. 

"It was a bit of a shock because we've got two girls and they're completely healthy but he was very poorly," Vikki Mason, 31, Elliot's mother, said.

Vikki told The Sun newspaper that Elliot has "spent most of his life in hospital and been in more than he’s been at home. He’s missed birthdays, Christmases, New Years, Halloweens. It’s like a rollercoaster that hasn’t stopped since he was born."

Small boy in wheelchair with Santa hat on looking up at poster of himself which has a big sign on saying 'donate'.

"He's happy. He doesn't know any different." - Credit: Vikki Mason

Elliot has had three brain surgeries, 11 lung aspirations, pancreatitis, sepsis, pneumonia and now COVID-19. As reported in The Sun, he lost the use of his right leg after undergoing brain surgery in February 2021. But with the help of Lister's nurses, he was able to regain some mobility again, in the hospital where he took his first steps. A moving football was projected onto the ground to encourage Elliot to kick it. 

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After shielding for a year, Vikki was heartbroken when Elliot caught coronavirus in August. The infection caused blood clots in his lungs. "He's now on warfarin medication, at the age of six, as you do. It took a while to sink in," Vikki said. 

"We're just back and forth to hospital three times a week to get his levels checked until we can get a machine to do it itself."

Now Vikki is raising awareness for Lister Hospital's 'SafeSpaces' campaign, which will see a sensory waiting room for young people with complex needs built. For someone like Elliot who is frequently in hospital, this development could be life-changing. 

"Elliot can't wait in the waiting room because he's got no immune system. He's neutropenic so he goes straight to his own room. But that room hasn't got anything in it. It's got no distractions. So then he's aware that he's in hospital and gets stressed," Vikki explained.