Johnny Depp has become the latest high-profile backer of The Independent's Give to GOSH appeal, a cause that has already seen the Chancellor commit the Treasury to matching every pound raised by readers.
The Golden Globe winning actor, whose daughter Lily-Rose was treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) when she was critically ill as a child, praised Independent readers who have already made donations in the first week of the appeal and said that he hoped people would continue to “dig deep” for what he called a “magical hospital”.
He told The Independent: “The darkest days of my family’s life were spent within the walls of Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was an extremely anxious time, full of unknowns, and the most frightening period of our lives. But, owing to the phenomenal care shown by all the staff at Great Ormond Street, they not only brought us continued hope on a daily basis, but ultimately saved my daughter’s young life.”
Lily-Rose Depp, now a 16-year-old model and actress, was admitted to GOSH in March 2007, aged 7. She had fallen seriously ill while her father was filming Sweeney Todd at Pinewood Studios .
He said: “I was amazed to witness the nurses, doctors, and all involved, approach their work with such great diligence, and purity of heart that no matter the severity of the situation, every child was treated with the same love and expertise. By all this, I was profoundly moved and I will be forever grateful and eternally beholden to these infinitely courageous, kind and professional individuals.”
Depp went on to praise the “world-class skills and knowledge” of the medical teams at GOSH.
Meet the patients and doctors of GOSH
Meet the patients and doctors of GOSH
1/9 Elliott Livingstone
Two-year-old Elliott is a “cheeky” little boy who has a Thomas the Tank Engine sticker on his Berlin heart machine, which has kept him alive since his own heart failed eight months ago. Elliott has two tubes pumping blood around his tiny body. It keeps him alive but the machine has left him confined to the wards of Great Ormond Street Hospital until a new heart is found
2/9 Melissa Strickland
As the ward sister on Koala Ward, Melissa Strickland leads a nursing team with the challenging job of looking after children with craniofacial and neurological conditions. “You have to have all the skills and knowledge to do this job but personally for me you cannot do it unless you have passion but also compassion,” she said. “You don’t get used to the sad side of things but you do learn to manage it.”
3/9 Amy Willis
Amy Willis carries a discreet black medical bag everywhere she goes. It contains the cutting-edge HeartWare device that is keeping her alive. A smaller, more advanced version of the Berlin artificial heart, it was fitted in April after she was emergency airlifted to GOSH from Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. The device means that 14-year-old Amy can be home in Flintshire this Christmas while remaining on the heart transplant waiting list. She is doing well but 15 per cent of patients with a HeartWare device or Berlin heart die while waiting for a new heart, so money raised by the appeal will also go to help researchers identify ways to keep children alive while they await transplant
4/9 Myra Bluebond-Langner
Professor Myra Bluebond-Langner represents the vital work of the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care, GOSH’s world-class centre dedicated to research and care for children with life-limiting illnesses. The LDC is named in honour of Louis Dundas, a four-year-old boy who died in “unspeakable pain” after suffering a brain tumour in April 2008. Its aim is to ensure that no child suffers unnecessarily in their final days. Money raised from The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal will go to fund the team’s work to manage pain, and also fund vital research into palliative care in children across the whole of the UK. Professor Bluebond-Langner, who heads the research, said: “Paediatric palliative care is a relatively new field where practice has outstripped research. We look to change that.”
5/9 Finella Craig
Together with with Professor Myra Bluebond-Langner, Dr Finella Craig represents the vital work of the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care, GOSH’s world-class centre dedicated to research and care for children with life-limiting illnesses. The LDC is named in honour of Louis Dundas, a four-year-old boy who died in “unspeakable pain” after suffering a brain tumour in April 2008. Its aim is to ensure that no child suffers unnecessarily in their final days. “One of the worst experiences for a family is to witness their child in pain and discomfort, and for them to feel totally powerless to do anything about it,” said Dr Craig, a consultant in paediatric palliative medicine at GOSH since 2002. Money raised from The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal will go to fund the team’s work to manage pain, and also fund vital research into palliative care in children across the whole of the UK.
6/9 Rowan Pethard
Like most little boys, Rowan Pethard loves playing football. At the start of 2015 the seven-year-old Spurs fan baffled his doctors in Hemel Hempstead with a string of coughs, colds, tummy bugs, aches, pains and rashes. It wasn’t until quite late on that doctors discovered he had leukaemia. He spent two days in intensive care while he had emergency chemo. He has two years of follow-up treatment ahead. “He’s amazing, a little superhero,” his mum said. “It makes it easier for his father and I and his brother to cope.”
7/9 Martin Elliott
Paediatric heart and lung surgeon Martin Elliott, 64, is one of the longest serving doctors at GOSH, leading groundbreaking research and treating thousands of patients over the past 30 years. His work has bridged the gap between surgery and research with skills ranging from heart-bypass surgery to correcting congenital lung disorders.
8/9 Ralph Frost
For Ralph the hardest thing about having to live at GOSH while he waits for a new kidney isn’t missing his toys. He has plenty of those and can terrorise the nurses by pushing his little red motorbike down the corridors of Eagle Ward. The hardest thing for the six-year-old is battling not to cry out during his nightly dialysis sessions. “It really hurts,” he said. “But the other kids are sleeping and I don’t want to wake them up.” Ralph suffers from nephrotic syndrome and is currently waiting for a kidney from his father, Nick. He’s called the kidney “Chase” and his parents, who have been trained to operate his dialysis machine, hope to be home by Christmas
9/9 Lynsey Steele
The strongest praise for Lynsey Steele, 33, comes from the parents of the children she helps. “The children here wouldn’t get by without Lynsey,” said Ralph’s mother Amie Frost. “If she wasn’t here then we’d have cracked up.” Lynsey’s role, which is funded by the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and will be supported by The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal, is to help children play and relax, but also to have the difficult conversations explaining their treatment
Over the next few months, The Independent will be raising money for GOSH and proceeds from the appeal, which is being run in partnership with the London Evening Standard, will support cutting-edge pediatric research as well as helping to fund a new 14-bed specialist unit to help children with heart failure live better qualities lives while they await transplant.
It will also support the Louis Dundas Centre for Children’s Palliative Care, GOSH’s world-class centre dedicated to research, teaching and care for children with life-limiting illnesses.
The centre is named in honour of Louis Dundas, a four-year-old boy who died in “unspeakable pain” after suffering a brain tumour in April 2008. Its aim is to ensure that no child suffers unnecessarily in their final days.
Money donated to the Give to GOSH appeal will also support patients and families at the hospital, including accommodation for parents so they can stay close to children going through stressful treatments.
Depp, who usually avoids publicising his charitable work, said: “I wholeheartedly support this appeal and thank the papers and you, the readers, for supporting such a worthy cause.”
He has retained a close relationship with the hospital ever since his daughter was treated there, and regularly returns to GOSH in costume as Captain Jack Sparrow, the lead character in the Pirates of the Caribbean films, to entertain sick children at the hospital. He invited the entire nursing team that cared for his daugher to the premiere of Sweeney Todd and has invited his daughter's medical team to all of his premiers since.
Donations made in response to Depp’s call and all donations made through the course of the appeal will now be doubled after George Osborne used the Autumn Statement earlier this week to announce that the Treasury would match every pound raised by The Independent’s Give to GOSH appeal.
Depp, known for his roles in Alice in Wonderland to Fear in Loathing and Las Vegas, added: “I hope people dig deep and give generously to this magical hospital so it can continue to be a home away from home for very sick children and their families; and house the world-class skills and knowledge that will hopefully help all of our babies to get better.”
If you Give to GOSH, your donation will be matched by the Government, doubling its amount. To donate go to: http://ind.pn/1Mydxqt