This Children’s Hospice Week, Together for Short Lives is encouraging supporters to think about their own #LifesShort moments: the little things that make life beautiful. For 15 years, St Oswald’s Hospice, based in Newcastle upon Tyne, has been helping seriously ill children and their families make the most of every minute. The hospice is kickstarting their Children’s Service 15th birthday celebrations this Children’s Hospice Week. Hear from the Hospice, and one of the families who use their short break Children and Young Adults Service, to find out more about the impact of their care.
Although St Oswald’s Hospice has been a lifeline for families in the North East for over 30 years, it wasn’t until 2003 that we opened our doors to our Children’s Service.
On our Children’s Service 15th birthday, we are reflecting back to all the special moments we have helped to create with the families that we have supported. 171 families have shared their journey with us so far and we hope to continue to help make the most of time with many more families.
To turn 15 is a great milestone for our Children and Young Adults Service. We opened as a Children’s Hospice providing short breaks and end of life care for babies and children up to the age of 18 in 2003. Since 2012 we have cared for young adults too until their 25th birthday and continue to look in to new ways to develop our services.
To celebrate the birthday we are holding a summer garden party for the families that we currently support in the service. The children, young adults and families who no longer access our services will, as always, be remembered and we will be displaying memories over the last 15 years.
During Children’s Hospice Week we’ll enjoy a week of special celebrations including music making, cake baking and arts and crafts.
One child who we have supported for the last eight years is Gracie Watchorn. Gracie, aged 8 from Gateshead, has been coming to us for short breaks since she was 8 weeks old.
Gracie had encephalitis following a virus at five weeks old that left her permanently brain damaged, and needs round the clock care. As Gracie survived all odds and her family thought she wouldn’t make it past just weeks old, Gracie’s family used to bring a cake to the Hospice every month to celebrate.
We spoke to her mum, Linsey Preston, so that you can find out more about what the service means to the families we support. Linsey tells us more about Gracie and how the whole family, including younger daughter Betsie, benefits from the support of St Oswald’s. She said:
“I was very nervous to leave Gracie at the Hospice at first and used to stay over in her room with her. As St Oswald’s has accommodation for parents and families, I progressed to a room upstairs and then after six months I was comfortable enough to leave her at the Hospice and go home. I was reassured by their staff who made me feel at ease and would ring me if Gracie’s condition deteriorated so I could be with her.
“The main reason for my anxiety was that we had originally switched Gracie’s life support off as recommended by the hospital and then taken Gracie home to peacefully pass away when she was just weeks old. Gracie had other ideas and wanted to stick around.
“We were unsure what would happen to Gracie so we used to celebrate her birthday in monthly stages and bring a cake to the Hospice where me and the staff used to sing her happy birthday. Now 8 years later Gracie is still going strong and I have another little girl Betsie.”
Talking in more detail about the care Gracie and family receive from St Oswald’s, Lindsey continued:
“When Gracie stays at St Oswald’ s for short breaks, me and my other daughter Betsie get to spend quality time together. We do things that we wouldn’t be able to do with Gracie, like going to the beach, a funfair or just going to a friend’s house. I do sometimes take the time to get away on holiday and short breaks with my boyfriend.
“I also use the time to relax and not have to worry about medication, bath times and changing nappies which are all a challenge as I live on my own with the girls.
“I feel so lucky and blessed that Gracie and my family have access to St Oswald’s. I really don’t know if I could have coped without the help and support from everyone who works and volunteers there. Thank you all so much.”
On behalf of everyone at St Oswald’s Hospice, we are so thankful to everyone who supports us. Thank you to the North East community for your continued support to help us to make the most of time for all the children and families we have cared for over the last 15 years.
Find out more about our 15th birthday here.