Since it opened in 2008, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, in North Anston, Rotherham, has been dedicated to making an impact on the lives of children and young-adults with life-shortening or threatening conditions.
Jo Chambers, 51, who is a nurse team leader at the hospice, said: “We offer respite services to children with life-limiting conditions, we also take emergency referrals from the local hospitals for children who are in the end of life phase, giving them end of life care.
“We also have children who come in for symptom management and end-suites which offer after-death care and support for families, such as bereavement counselling.”
Bluebell Wood strives to be a joyful and comforting space, designed to make children and young adults as happy in the end stages of their lives.
As well as offering professional support, it provides services like physiotherapy, music therapy, hydrotherapy and sibling support, even boasting a soft-play room with a ball pit.
And this is just the in-house support available to children and their families.
Jo said: “We do outings such as taking them to the wildlife park which is not far from here. We give the children as many experiences as we can.”
Whilst the pandemic has had an effect on some of the services, Jo said that where they hadn’t been able to deliver face-to-face therapy, they had kept them going virtually, meaning that children can participate in music therapy or messy play from the comfort of their own homes.
Jo, who has been at Bluebell Wood for seven years now, not only coordinates staff behind the scenes but also interacts directly with the children who visit the hospice.
“I find my job very rewarding. The feel you get for the place is so fun, it’s so different from an adult hospice,” she said.
“We have children who are at the end of their life but the job is about making memories for the children and their families and making an experience that is the worst possible time in
their life, the best it can be.”
Bluebell Wood also has a community nursing team, providing care to children in their own homes, meaning that families are given breaks between the full-time job of caring for a child with a life-shortening illness.
One family that benefits from the services and support at Bluebell Wood is Sara Roberts and her three children; Cordelia, 12, Sienna, 10 and Jareth, 5.
Sara’s daughter, Sienna, has a rare type of epilepsy as well as several conditions that affect her trachea and windpipe.
Sara said: "We first started coming to the hospice when sienna was still in HDU (High Dependency Unit). She was taken into hospital at eight-and-a-half months to have a tracheostomy and
then when she was one-and-a-half, we were still living in the hospital.”
Because Sara’s oldest daughter, Cordelia, is autistic, she found it hard to visit Sienna in the HDU ward because of the bright lights and noise. It was then that the family first found out
about Bluebell Wood and would visit the hospice every weekend to allow Cordelia to bond with her sister in an environment that was more welcoming and safe.
Sara and her family love Bluebell Wood, not least because of the resident black lab, George.
Sara said: “When we first came they were brilliant, not only with Sienna and putting her mind at ease but with the other children as well.
“For me and my mum, one of the best things is that when Sienna comes in for respite, we don’t have to worry about her. At home, she needs 24/7 waking care which is a lot of work when we have the rest of the family to look after as well.”
As a mum-of-three, all of whom have either life-shortening or mental health conditions, Sara’s life is non-stop. She is not just a mother but a nurse and a therapist at the same time, the cost
of which can be exhausting.
“Bluebell Wood allows me to concentrate on just being a mum rather than always trying to multitask,” she said.
Hospice care is not just a chance for families with ill children to relax and focus on just being a family, it is also a safe space where children with life-threatening conditions, like Sienna,
can meet other children going through the same thing.
Sara said: “Sienna’s always said she feels comfortable here because at school there’s no other children going through the same thing as her, whereas here there’s children she feels
comfortable around and she’s got a very good bond with some of the children that come here.
“Here she has total control, she knows the nurses and she knows her way round.”
The services at Bluebell Wood are endless. Not only do they provide a multitude of programmes aimed at the children, Sara also tells us of the many options available to parents.
She said: “They have a Facebook page for families where they keep us up-to-date with events and workshops such as sibling groups, parent groups and bereavement counselling.
“There’s support on the webpage and we can always rely on other parents who have been dealing with the same things but for longer.”
Despite the amazing work they do, hospices only receive about 15 per cent of funding from the Government and rely on donations to keep running.
The pandemic has massively impacted their ability to fundraise. With restrictions ruling out community fundraising events, the income from fundraising events in 2021 was down by half from
the previous year.
The hospice recently received a boost from Meadowhall, where shoppers raised more than £15,000 for its Twinkle Twinkle appeal.
But it still needs your help – whether it’s making a donation or buying a unique gift from its online shop, every penny counts.