A short film telling the story of different fathers with a child who has congenital heart disease, produced by Cassius Rayner for charity ECHO, is up for an award at the 2019 Charity Film Awards.
ECHO’s short film, ‘Walking In Our Shoes’, hears directly from a group of dads individually as they reflect on their child’s diagnosis and treatment, and the impact this had on them and their family.
‘Walking In Our Shoes’ is a poignant film giving an intimate look into the dads’ experiences and the reality that many fathers feel the need to cope alone and be strong for the rest of their family, through what for most is the hardest experience of their life.
The fathers open up about how hard it can be to support your family at a time of crisis - being told your child has been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening heart condition - and also offer advice and reassurance to fathers who may be experiencing a similar situation.
The film was shot in different locations across South London and the surrounding area, including Evelina London Children's Hospital where many of these fathers have watched their children experience heart surgery, and many spend weeks or even months while their child is being treated.
You can watch the film here: https://echo-uk.org/get-support/walking-in-our-shoes/
Samantha Johnson, ECHO’s Chief Executive said:
“I am extremely thankful to all of the dads involved in the making of ECHO’s short film for opening up about their experiences in what is a very emotive film. I hope their stories inspire other dads to reach out for support, and feel connected with the ECHO heart community. We are delighted to have an opportunity for the film to be recognised at the Charity Film Awards, and I would like to thank everyone who has been voting so far.”
ECHO is passionate about ensuring that all parents and carers whose child has been diagnosed with congenital heart disease feel supported, and we do so by offering practical and emotional support within the Evelina London Children’s Hospital and local network hospitals, supporting hundreds of families from across the UK.
The Charity Film Awards have been created to celebrate the success of film in engaging supporters, driving positive conversations and encouraging donations for good causes. You can vote for ECHO’s film ‘Walking In Our Shoes’ here, by December 1st: https://charityfilmawards.com/videos/walking-in-our-shoes
The dads’ experiences:
• The dads reflect on what it was like to first be told about their child’s condition, hearing the devastating news, often antenatally, that their child will be born with a potentially life threatening condition.
• They discuss what it was like preparing for their child’s open heart surgery, as they tried to remain calm while dealing with the practicality of taking time off work and getting ready in a short time to travel to London for their child’s surgery.
• Many children spend weeks at a time in the hospital being treated and recovering after their surgery, and parents must navigate all that comes with having to temporarily uproot their family.
• Sadly, there are occasions where parents experience the death of their child. ECHO are here to support bereaved families through community support, guidance and events where families have the opportunity to meet other families with similar experiences to theirs.
• The dads also touch on advice for other dads whose child has been diagnosed with congenital heart disease, encouraging them to open up to loved ones about how they are really feeling, and not to keep their true emotions hidden.
Quotes from the film:
“Fathers, like mothers, have a whole range of emotions and are going through it as well, but they are dealing with it in a different way…fathers have a range of different stresses like bonding with your child, and with a heart condition while they are having an operation is a difficult thing. - James, ECHO Trustee and dad
“It’s one big experience, [entering the intensive care unit] is very daunting. Lots of people, lots of bodies, lots of machines, lots of different noises.” Adrian, dad
“When you walk through that door [to the intensive care unit] you see everything. You hear about these things happening but until you get in there and you see a helpless child, and you just wished you could change that position so it was you there.” Ben, dad
“I think for dads there’s quite a lot of pressure for you to be the calm one, to be able to plan and to think things through, through all the tears, all the concerns…generally I think cry few new dads would be prepared to say that they cry.” – John, dad
“It can be hard to stay strong when you are having such major concerns…I did put on a bit of a façade to be extra strong when all these things are going on, and my stomach was turning into knots. You’re trying to keep a straight face instead of breaking down, when the doctors are talking about the problems and the surgery [my son] will have to have…” – John, dad
Notes to editors: ECHO – Evelina Children’s Heart Organisation
At ECHO, we know that discovering your child has a potentially life threatening heart condition is one of the hardest things any parent can hear. Many families find it difficult to cope and welcome additional support, which is why ECHO exists. ECHO supports children and young people with heart conditions and their families, who have been treated by the Evelina London Children’s Hospital networks. ECHO provides support from the moment of diagnosis, throughout any treatment and care pathway or bereavement.
Families are supported at every stage of their child’s journey through childhood, teenage years and during the transition to adult services. The charity offers a number of practical services aimed at supporting these families, often when there is little other help available. ECHO connects the children’s heart community by bringing together children and young people with heart conditions, their families and medical professionals. It is a community of shared experience and understanding.
• ECHO is a small charity supporting thousands of children and young people with heart conditions and their families, often from the point of diagnosis (usually during pregnancy) through to adulthood.
• Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common type of birth defect, almost 1 in every 100 babies is born with a heart condition.
• Watch the About ECHO animation to find out more about what we do and why.
• ECHO doesn’t receive any funding from the NHS or government, so relies entirely on public generosity to operate.
• ECHO was established in 1983 by parents of heart children and medical staff at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.
• ECHO is a Registered Charity number 1146494.
• ECHO is independent from Evelina London Children’s Hospital.