Bluebell Wood children’s hospice provides vital support for hundreds of families

Helen Morer, head of fundraising at Bluebell Wood Hospice. Picture: Andrew Roe
Helen Morer, head of fundraising at Bluebell Wood Hospice. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Grateful families’ emotional tributes to positive facility for its ‘family-like’ atmosphere

‘Amazing’, ‘a life-line’, ‘incredible’ – these are just some of the ways grateful families describe Bluebell Wood Hospice.

Kate Edge, grandma of Ellie, who spent christmas at Bluebell Wood Hospice, is doing a sponsered diet to raise money. Picture: Andrew Roe

Kate Edge, grandma of Ellie, who spent christmas at Bluebell Wood Hospice, is doing a sponsered diet to raise money. Picture: Andrew Roe

Situated down a private road in North Anston, near Rotherham, the valuable facility offers care and support to children with life-limiting conditions, many of whom are not expected to live to adulthood.

But despite people’s preconceptions the building is not a sad, negative or depressing environment, but instead a place that is full of love, laughter and warmth.

Since opening its doors in 2008 the hospice and its team of dedicated nurses, doctors, therapists and counsellors, have provided high-quality care to brave youngsters with a shortened life expectancy, whilst also providing their parents both practical and emotional support.

This ranges from symptom control and end of life care to bereavement counselling for parents, grandparents and siblings following the death of a child.

Kerry White with her son Jacob at Bluebell Wood Hospice. Picture: Andrew Roe

Kerry White with her son Jacob at Bluebell Wood Hospice. Picture: Andrew Roe

One person who knows just how vital that support can be is 31-year-old Amanda Steele, from Brierley, Barnsley.

Tragically, Amanda lost her nine-month-old son Roman last year, who was born prematurely, and was referred to the hospice for help.

“I don’t know how I would have got through it without Bluebell Wood, they have been incredible,” recalls an emotional Amanda. “We lived at the hospice for three weeks before Roman’s funeral in November.

“I suffered quite bad mentally at the time but the support here is like being part of the family – it’s not at all negative.”

Julie Devine, Director of Care and Claire Rintoul, Chief Executive at Bluebell Wood Hospice. Picture: Andrew Roe

Julie Devine, Director of Care and Claire Rintoul, Chief Executive at Bluebell Wood Hospice. Picture: Andrew Roe

Amanda and her two children, Darcey, 12, and Theo, nine, visit the hospice weekly for ongoing support. Amanda attends bereavement support and the parent group, while Darcey and Theo attend the siblings’ group.

Amanda added: “It’s comforting to know that my children are getting the support they need too.”

In order to offer such a wide range of services and support, the hospice relies in part on its 350 caring volunteers, who give up their spare time to make a difference to others.

Mum-of-two Julie Marshall, from Gleadless, Sheffield, began volunteering at Bluebell Wood two years ago and currently helps to run the parent and grandparent group.

Julie Devine, Director of Care and Claire Rintoul, Chief Executive at Bluebell Wood Hospice. Picture: Andrew Roe

Julie Devine, Director of Care and Claire Rintoul, Chief Executive at Bluebell Wood Hospice. Picture: Andrew Roe

“The group provides an opportunity for people to sound off at someone who isn’t family and to mix with others in a similar situation,” said Julie, aged 38. “It also prevents them from becoming isolated and feeling they have to face things on their own.

“People here have no choice to go through what they do and if I can help just a tiny bit, it makes it worthwhile.”

Facilities at the hospice include eight bedrooms for children and young adults, as well as accommodation for families. It has two ‘end of life’ suites and is surrounded by beautiful, tranquil gardens. There is also a music room, messy play room, sensory room, cinema room, soft play area, teenage room and Jacuzzi.

And there are no restricted opening hours. The hospice offers its services 24 hours a day 365 days a year as Doncaster grandmother Kate Edge recently discovered.

The 51-year-old’s family life was turned upside down last year when her 12-year-old granddaughter Ellie Newitt was diagnosed with leukaemia in July after she kept coming up in bruises.

The youngster then suffered an adverse reaction while in hospital, which caused her to have 16 seizures in 24 hours followed by a stroke and three massive brain bleeds.

Amanda Steele and her children Darcey, aged 12, and Theo, aged 9, visit Bluebell Wood Hospice weekly

Amanda Steele and her children Darcey, aged 12, and Theo, aged 9, visit Bluebell Wood Hospice weekly

This left little Ellie paralysed from the neck down and she also lost her speech.

“We were given one hour to say our goodbyes as doctors didn’t think she would recover,” said Kate, from Auckley. “But then she started breathing for herself.”

“Some feeling has returned in her left arm and she is currently undergoing speech therapy but she’s still not able to come home.”

The family thought they would be spending Christmas on a ward at Sheffield Children’s Hospital but instead Bluebell Wood opened its doors especially for Ellie and her family.

“Ellie visited the hospice for a few days’ respite before Christmas and loved it so the staff said we could come back for Christmas and opened just for us.

“Lots of family came and I made us Christmas dinner, it would not have been the same at the hospital.”

As a thank you, Kate and her sisters, Jane and Mary, are now doing a sponsored slim.

They hope to lose around six stone collectively, whilst raising cash for the hospice.

* To sponsor Kate and her sisters, visit Jane Marr Just Giving Page

More than 200 fmilies helped in 2014

Bluebell Wood last year helped more than 200 families from across Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire – and each year aims to reach even more families with its care, both within the hospice and at patients’ homes.

But its running costs exceed £3 million a year and it receives less than five per cent statutory Government funding, meaning without the help of its fundraisers it simply could not continue to deliver its vital services.

To help people of all ages take on and arrange an array of weird and wonderful challenges to ensure the important Yorkshire facility remains.

Helen Mower, head of fundraising, said: “The support we receive is amazing from the young children giving up birthday presents to make a donation to the hospice, to people going all out and organising big events to raise thousands.

“Whether people organise their own fundraiser or join in with one of our events, we make every penny count, with the majority going towards funding the staff and care team and supporting the families.

“We’d like to say a massive thank you to all that support us, no matter how big or small the contribution, the difference their efforts make to children and their families is huge.”

Upcoming Bluebell Wood Hospice fundraising events:

* April 12 – Yorkshire Half Marathon, a charity road race in Sheffield city centre

* May 2 – Colour Dash, a vibrant 5K family-friendly run at Rother Valley Country Park

* June 14 – Dam Buster Challenge, a 35-mile bike ride through the Peak District

* July 4 – It’s a Knockout, a fun assault course at Dinnington Rugby Club inspired by the hit 90s TV show

* For more information visit, Bluebell Wood events