• Kaleb

Letters to BCH

BCH (Birmingham Children's Hospital) saved my life. In 2015, when I had my brain haemorrhage, I received emergency neurosurgery at Clinique Internationale of Marrakech. I was then medically evacuated back to the UK and taken to BCH for further treatment. The expertise, care and compassion of the staff at BCH saved my life. I wouldn’t be alive, let alone able to do all that I can, without the stunning skill and unerring kindness of my medical team, including neurosurgeons, oncologists, endocrinologists and nursing staff.

Receiving and offer from Oxford has been yet another reminder of how BCH has saved my life and allowed me to live it as I do. I wanted, therefore, to thank them for all they’ve done for me. Although I don’t think I’ll ever be able to communicate the depth of my thanks and love for BCH that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying!

I’d like to share these emails with you. I think they convey some of the immense gratitude and sense of home I feel for BCH. For me, having my life saved by this hospital has made it feel like home – in a rather odd way for sure, but a home nonetheless.

I sent two emails: one to the oncology and neurosurgery departments and Ward 10 (where I had my initial hospital stay), and one to Sarah-Jane Marsh, the CEO of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital – I really wanted her to hear this example – one of many – of how amazing BCH is!

Dear BCH Oncology,

I’m Kaleb Ells, a former BCH patient, and about 6 months ago I transitioned from BCH to the QE. This academic year I’ve been applying to university, something I couldn’t have contemplated 3 ½ years ago when I had a brain haemorrhage and received my brain tumour diagnosis. I have applied to study English literature at several universities, including Oxford. Given all the medical sagas of the last few years I thought this was a distant possibility. However, earlier this week, to my utter amazement, I received an offer to study at Oxford University.

Prior to my brain haemorrhage, studying at Oxford had been my dream scenario. Although my diagnosis has changed my views on what’s most important to me, I still wanted to give it a shot at applying. Thinking about my offer over the last few days one thing in particular has occurred to me. I couldn’t and wouldn’t have been in a position to do this without BCH. It is because of the tireless care, compassion, skill and brilliance of the staff of oncology, neurosurgery and Ward 10 that I have been able to return to school and be in a position to apply to university. I am eternally grateful. To Dr English, to Mr Solanki, to the nurses of ward 10, to the reception staff of oncology, to the outpatient nurses, to the psychologists and so many more. You saved my life and, what’s more, you ensured it could be a fulfilling one, a life with feeling and experience and fellowship and more.

Getting an Oxford offer is wonderful, and I couldn’t have done it without BCH. However, being in a position to enjoy my life is infinitely more wonderful indeed, and without BCH I couldn’t have done that either.

I would be very grateful if you could pass this email on to the neurosurgery department and Ward 10 as well.

Thank you and much love for ever,


Dear Sarah Jane Marsh,

I'm a former BCH patient who moved to the QE about 6 months ago.

In July 2015 I had a brain haemorrhage on a school trip in Morocco up a mountain. (Because of my drastic understatement of how ill I was feeling, I did, however, make it all the way back down the 4000m mountain and to the airport before anyone noticed!) It turned out I had a previously undiagnosed brain tumour, which had bled due to the pressure.

After treatment in Morocco, I was flown to BCH and received 3 neurosurgeries there during my summer stay on Ward 10. Almost incapacitated by fatigue and barely able to remember from minute to minute, I returned to school part-time less than 2 months after my haemorrhage, entering my GCSE year and determined to sit all of my exams. I achieved 9A*s, 1A and 1B.

I have continued my education in 6th form, studying for my A-levels over 3 years due to the effects of my brain haemorrhage. Last year I gained an A* in my history A-level.

Prior to my brain haemorrhage, it had been an academic dream to apply for Oxbridge. After my diagnosis, my life became lived by the hour and day, and this was side-lined. However, this academic year, I decided to give Oxford a shot, applying for English Language and Literature.

Much to my amazement, last week I received an offer to study there. After some rudimentary research and much to my amusement, an Oxford offer is statically less likely than a brain tumour diagnosis.

I could not have been able to contemplate returning to education, let alone applying to Oxford, and, infinitely more importantly, enjoying my life, without the incredible care of BCH.

Oncology, neurosurgery, Ward 10, Dr English, Mr Solanki and the psychology department have all done so much for me. I owe them my life. Their brilliant expertise, tireless care, compassion, attentiveness, commitment and unerring dedication has made my life one that's possible to enjoy and delight in.

In a way I could never have contemplated, BCH has become my second home. I feel an affinity with it similar to nothing else. Yes, it may be less exotic than a villa in the Algarve, but, to me, BCH is a worthier and more loving place every time!

I love BCH more than I can say.

I thought you might like to know about just one example of how this amazing hospital is so very wonderful.

I have forwarded the email I sent to the oncology department below.

Thank you for all that you do to make BCH so utterly brilliant.

Thank you and very best wishes,

Kaleb Ells

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