We've endured cancer, depression & son's open-heart surgery – a surprise gesture has now saved our Christmas

ANXIOUSLY watching the hospital doors, Rose Eberle struggled to contain her panic as she waited to hear news of her three-year-old son.

Little Naayt had spent the last eight hours undergoing his third open heart surgery – and worse still, Rose was alone as only one family member could be there due to pandemic restrictions.

Now she is opening up on how the agonising time had a major impact on her whole family, leaving her husband struggling to cope and heaping pressure on her other children.

She is one of thousands of Brits who have had to endure personal nightmares this year, whith cancer battles, mental health issues and money woes only made worse by Covid-19.

But now, thanks to a kind-hearted company, 24 struggling families were offered a Christmas surprise to brighten their festive seasons.

Shelving company BiGDUG has handed each of them a "full Christmas in a box" – with a whole host of gifts including widescreen TVs, bikes, and Christmas trees.

Here, three beneficiaries of the early Christmas surprise tell The Sun how it's helped transform what has been a truly gruelling year…

'He was in there for eight hours and I was petrified'

Mum-of-four Rose, 35, had a horrendous year when her youngest child Naayt had to undergo open-heart surgery for the third time in June.

Naayt was born with a condition which meant only the right side of hisheart was formed.

Although she is often the rock of the family, Rose admits she was terrified when her son went in for the operation.

She says: “When Naayt went in for his surgery, he was in there for eight hours and I was petrified.

“Normally I am the strong one – but on the second opp we were told he would have 24 hours to either get through it or not, so this time around I was petrified of hearing that again.”

The stress has had a major toll on her husband Markus, 35, who lost his job after the second surgery.

“I cope better than their dad. He has suffered a lot with mental health, so he’s seen doctors to help him with that,” Rose says.

“With everything that Naayt has gone through, he is not coping like we are.”

The family also had to separate this year as Covid-19 restrictions meant that only one family member could be with Naayt at any given time.

“Even though he was talking [to] his siblings on FaceTime, he would cry and say, ‘I want to go home to be with them’", Rose recalls. “So, the surgery this year really hit him hard.”

'He’s petrified of hospitals and doctors but he’s so strong'

Having been through the multiple surgeries, brave Naayt – who still receives care from the hospital now – is more than happy to show off his battle scars.

“He’s petrified of hospitals and doctors but he’s so strong with it as well," says Rose.

“He loves showing his scar, he’s proud of it so when you ask him to show you, he will.”

For the family, being gifted a whole Christmas after the difficult year they’ve had has been a highlight of the year.

“I thought for what Naayt has been through, he deserves everything, that’s why I nominated him," Rose says.

“I was so gobsmacked about the generosity of the gifts and the kids were so happy. Seeing how happy they were when they received the presents made me so pleased on the inside. It was priceless.”

'I didn’t even want to get out of bed'

Another family that have been helped by the company are the Tudors.

Martin and Steph's two-year-old twins Ada and Rupert were born prematurely in 2018.

Tragically, Rupert has underdeveloped lungs as a result of the early birth. It meant that this time last year, they were in a hospital intensive care unit as his condition meant he had difficulties breathing.

For two years, Martin, 31, kept his worries over his son's health to himself and did not tell anyone how the pressures at home made him feel.

“I got myself into quite a state where I ended up going off work and now, I can see that it was depression at the time”, he says.

“It was at a point where I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Sometimes it would be two or three days where I didn’t want to get out to do anything.”

Martin says during his lowest points, it was his wife, Steph, 30, who really stepped up to be the rock of the family.

He adds: “She was so kind and kept trying to bring my spirits up and I would have completely been in a different place now if it wasn’t for her.”

Despite her taking care of the family, their worries were escalated when they had to get by on one salary for months.

Martin recalls: “We are not exactly high earners; we are below the national average for wages so every penny counts.

“I think it had some effects on her own well-being because that first lockdown was like cabin fever and also it was the nervousness of having to go back to work.”

'It gives us more protection'

Martin ended up making a huge sacrifice for his family when he decided to leave his job for another, which enabled him to work from home.

“I went for it because it shielded my family that little bit further. It gives us more protection,” he says.

Mum Steph is not the only member of the family who stepped up this year, however.

Rupert's twin sister has been "brilliant" and helps to take care of her brother.

“I’m convinced she’s been in this life before," he says. "Even with things like potty training, she’s the one that instigated it, and tells her brother ‘come on, come to the toilet with me’.

“She gets him to go on the toilet which is amazing.”

Nominating his family for the surprise was Martin's own way to show appreciation for all the support they have given him.

“I wanted to say thank you to my wife and the family," he says.

"The gifts have just taken that pressure off of Christmas at a point where we were going to have to wait until Christmas Eve when my wife gets paid to get our Christmas shopping.

“For me, this year is probably the most exciting Christmas.”           

'Being positive has been difficult'

This year has also been a particularly difficult one for Emma Getvoldsen, 41, who has been battling cancer.

As a result of coronavirus, while she started chemotherapy in January, it had to be stopped in March as it was part of a trial.

In August the treatment was started again, and she had to self-administer at home as a result of coronavirus.

She says: “Health wise, 2020 has not been a good year at all. My mental health was also not particularly good and being positive has been difficult, so it’s been a tough year all round.”

Several years ago, she underwent a hysterectomy as a result of severe endometriosis, which left her with a rare condition known as ovarian remnant syndrome.

Affecting one in a million people, it is when pieces of ovarian tissue regenerate after the removal of ovaries.

Emma had been informed that no doctor in the UK can operate on her as it is too risky, so she intends to raise money to go to America for the surgery.

She adds: “I had surgery for my condition in America in 2017 and unfortunately there were really bad complications, and it was not successful so I’m now in the situation where I have to have the chemo for the tumours and I also have to contend with ovarian remnant syndrome.

“When lockdown is properly lifted and Covid has left the building, there will be more fundraising to go to America in the near future.”

'The nicest surprise'

Her friends and family have been a major support throughout her health problems, and her mother was the one to nominate her to receive the Christmas surprise.

“It was the nicest surprise I have ever had and I didn’t expect it at all," she says.

“The team at Big Dug are the most amazing incredible people and it was a huge surprise that meant absolutely everything.”

BiGDUG says the purpose of the surprises was to spread some "magic this Christmas".

Managing director Chris Reilly says: "Christmas is an extremely important time of the year for all of us, loved for the bringing together of family and friends.

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"This year, we need to feel this festive love and reignite our more distant connections more so than ever, so we decided to resurrect our advent calendar, trying to make more of an impact and drastically change the community's holiday fate, for the better."

Each of the families received a 2m x 1m cardboard box which contained everything it takes to make this Christmas a memorable one.

The company has been giving the door-step surprises from December 1 and plans to surprise 24 families until December 24.

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