Vital respite and short break care has been life-changing for Dougie, Beth and Antony

Dougie has an undiagnosed neurological condition. His parents Beth and Antony were first told there might be complications with Dougie when Beth was 33 weeks’ pregnant. Once he was born they found out that those complications were neurological, though not enough was known for Dougie to be diagnosed.Dougie Antony Beth Atkinson

Beth says: “We were told it was unlikely that he would live. We had such a huge mix of feelings. We were – and still are – so happy and proud of Dougie for being so strong and achieving so much, but there was always a sadness and real fear of the unknown.”

Getting respite support

Dougie was referred to Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice at eight-months-old after being in hospital on a high dependency unity.

Beth and Antony had no idea about the services provided by the hospice, and the respite support available to them. Once they knew about the care on offer, there were some pivotal moments in store for the family.    

Swimming for the first time

Beth describes the first time Dougie went swimming as one particular moment she’ll never forget: “Dougie was able to swim for the first time in the spa at Bluebell Wood. We were always told that you can’t take a child with a tracheostomy swimming, but the staff at Bluebell Wood never say never, so they helped us do it safely.

“It was incredible – you could see that he immediately relaxed and felt happy. It was a very special moment for us.”

Going back to work

“Another important moment that really sticks in my mind was when I realised I would be able to go back to work, thanks to Bluebell Wood’s support. When we were told that Dougie had a limited life expectancy I never thought I’d get back to my job. But incredibly, it happened, and it’s been life-changing. Bluebell Wood did that for me.

“I now get to have time to myself for work, while Dougie gets to have access to the hospice and to nursery, which he loves. Having all of that makes the time we have together as a family more special than ever.’

Time to relax and sleep

Beth and Antony have yet to get a diagnosis for Dougie, but they’re confident that everything that can be done is being done, and a large part of that is down to Bluebell Wood.

Beth added: “We still have hard times, of course. But knowing we can come to Bluebell Wood and just relax and sleep while Dougie is being taken care of is so important to us. Without the hospice, we couldn’t live the way we do now. We’d be lost.”