Posted: 14 February 2015

Sami's story: A home away from home

Sami’s story and photograph are part of Hidden: England’s Invisible Young Carers, a compelling exhibition of photos and stories of some of the more than 166,000 young carers in England.

Find out more about Hidden: England’s Invisible Young Carers.

Sami's story

I care for my sister, seven, who has epilepsy and tracheostomy [an artificial opening into the windpipe that is held open by a tube]. I also care for my older brother, 17, who was born with Marfan syndrome. He’s six foot ten and he won’t stop growing until he dies. He was also in a cycling accident five years ago and suffered a head injury that means he forgets everything after three days, even us, his family.

My sister is joyful, we are silly together and dance and do all the things we’re not supposed to do. We signed for three years, then she had an operation and now she has a voice. Actually, she had two voices: a princess voice and a dragon voice. 

My dad used to be a soldier. His dad was a soldier to. He said he’d kill me if I became a soldier. He’s amazing. I love him so much. He battles on, even if he’s in pain. 

In the future

I want to be a children’s nurse who specialises in tracheostomy – a ‘trackkie’ – there are so few nurses who specialise in that in the UK. When I told my dad he said I should go for it.

I’m cheerful, always smiling. I can be serious and funny at the same time. I’m a life saver. I mean that. I have saved my brother and sister’s lives. 

I would say to other young carers: try to be yourself and be there for others. 

They [my family] come before me. I love them. I do pamper myself, buy shoes and make-up and stuff. I go out with the young carer project. But I thought being a young carer was just ‘life’ – I wouldn’t put a label. 

'When I went to my first young carer project, it clicked.'

This was what I was brought up to do. When I went to my first young carer project, it clicked. I thought: am I really a young carer? I look after the people I love. This is me. 

My dad set me up with the young carer project. I was five and he realised that I needed to get out more. He found a leaflet. When I went to the young carer project I recognised some people from school and I thought ‘oh I didn’t realise they were a young carer’. I’ve been involved in a young carer project now for 10 years, me and my project worker Dani are technically sisters. The project is like a family. 

To do a tracheostomy you have to know if it’s gone in right. You’ve got to be calm. I started doing it when I was ten. We had some help from healthcare people, but now they know we can do it they don’t come round anymore. I recently went to a Young Carers in Focus event as a young carer champion and I said to the NHS staff: ‘you need to get off your bum and stop drinking tea’. Then a nurse turned up at our house to help.

I’m excited about growing up. I know my brother and sister are in good hands with my dad. My brother forgets people after three days, so we use photos to remind him. We’re all going to London together when I go to uni, like a pack.

'I would say to other young carers: You don’t have to hide.'

Young carers come to projects to get away from it all. You want to be unique and yourself, not just a ‘carer’. So I would say to people who think they know a young carer not to talk to them only about caring, talk to them about other things – about the rest of life – as well.

That’s what puts a young carer back. Talk to them on a normal level, like: ‘Hi, want to be mates?’

If you think you’re a young carer I’d say: you don’t know what a young carer project is until you try. You might think ‘I don’t need to be cared for, I look after others’ but you don’t know til you try. You might not want to be ‘out there’ but asking one person can change things. 

MPs promise, but what do they actually do? MPs need to recognise us. We are out there. Think of us as people. Go out, ask young people about being carers.

I would say to other young carers: You don’t have to hide. To get to the brightest bright, you have to go through the darkest dark. As a young carer you don’t want to see what your family are going through, their pain. But there are moments of joy, real miracles. For me, this was becoming a sergeant in the St Johns Ambulance Brigade. It’s also the moments when I see my sister, my brother or my dad happy.

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