Together for Short Lives
Call the Helpline 0808 8088 100

Charlotte’s story: “Who’s going to take Aimee?”

Aimee and Millie

When Charlotte Cleary was rushed to hospital in an ambulance at 33 weeks pregnant, her first thought was not for herself, but who was going to care for her 9 year old daughter Aimee. Acorns Children’s Hospice stepped in to make sure all the family got the care they needed.

Last October mum Charlotte was going about a fairly ordinary Thursday. At 33 weeks pregnant she still had some time before the birth of her second daughter, and she was attending a wheelchair appointment for her nine year old daughter Aimee, who has quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy, a life-limiting condition that requires constant medical care.

A tough year

Last year was tough, and not least for Charlotte, who was caring alone for Aimee through lockdown without a break, while pregnant. “I couldn’t really get out,” says Charlotte now. “It’s hard at the best of times, but with lockdown it became so hard. Even getting online shopping delivered was almost impossible for a while, so we were really pushed.”

Fortunately Sue, an outreach worker from the local Children’s Hospice Acorns, stepped up with a regular food delivery had been delivering a regular food parcel, and the family had got just about got through the first lockdown. “The food parcels were a massive relief, as we didn’t have to worry what as on the table – most of what we ate in that first lockdown was from Acorns.”

Hour of need

Things took a sharp turn though in October, when after returning from the hospital appointment Charlotte started bleeding. “My first thought was for Aimee to be honest,” she says now. “Before I called the ambulance I called my Mum, and I was in bits. I just kept thinking ‘I need to get Aimee sorted, who’s going to take Aimee?’.”

Charlotte had suffered a massive haemorrhage and needed an emergency C-Section immediately. After the procedure her new daughter, Millie, was sent straight to NICU and Charlotte needed a blood transfusion as she had lost so much blood.

Despite this extraordinary trauma, Charlotte’s first concern was still Aimee. “I was so worried,” she explains. “Caring for Aimee is physically really demanding – she has very little muscle tone, and you have to physically move her around to change her and I didn’t want Mum to have care for her on her own, it’s too much for her to handle.”

Once again Acorns Children’s Hospice stepped in to support Charlie when she was at her limit. “I was making phone calls afterwards while Millie was in ICU,” Charlie continues. “The community nurse managed to get in touch with Acorns for me and they offered emergency care for Aimee, and they agreed to take her in.”

Before she could be admitted to the hospice Aimee and Charlotte’s mum needed to take a Covid test, so her Mum stayed with Aimee at Charlotte’s for the first day. However, when the tests came back negative Acorns took Aimee in on Saturday morning, initially for the weekend, but this was able to be extended, eventually stretching to 10 days of care after the birth.

“I was so relieved,” says Charlie, “and I really needed that time. I was really poorly afterwards and stayed in hospital with Millie for five days. Even once we were home I needed the time to focus on getting to know Millie, and recovering from the operation. The doctors think the physical strain of caring for Aimee could have been what caused the trauma in the first place, so I needed time to recover to be able to care for her again.”

A chance to recharge batteries

This isn’t the first time Acorns has supported Charlie and Aimee when they really needed it, the Birmingham based children’s hospice has been a constant source of aid since they first visited when Aimee was still a toddler.

“When Aimee was around two year’s old she had an operation to have a feeding peg fitted to her stomach. I was really struggling at the time, I had had to quite my job and mentally, emotionally and physically I was feeling the strain,” says Charlie. “I was running on empty really.”

A nurse at the hospital suggested she refer Charlie to Acorns, and despite her initial reluctance, she has never looked back. “When the nurse first mentioned a children’s hospice I thought don’t like the idea of that,” Charlie explains. “I didn’t realise that they did so much or cared for children like Aimee. Since then I’ve had 16 nights respite care scattered through each year. I leave Aimee with Acorns to be cared for, and it’s like a holiday for both of us – it’s so important to get a break and get a chance to recharge your batteries.”

Mind at rest

Charlie can’t speak too highly of Acorns and the support they give to her and Aimee. “I just know they’re fantastic with Aims – she loves it there every time she goes, and for me it’s just such a help and a chance to get a break. It’s what they’re there for, they put my mind at rest, and I just can’t thank them enough for all they do for us.”

There are no limits to the support that families like Gracie’s need from children’s hospices like Acorns.

More and more families need the help of children’s hospices, and the hospices need your support to continue.

Help us ensure children’s hospices are not pushed to their limits by donating today.

Family stories