East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH)

imageMy regular and recent patients, or those who follow my social media pages will be aware that I recently raised money for EACH with a sponsored head shave and leg wax (ouch!).  I chose this particular charity because I had heard great things about them and as a parent could really resonate.  Having raised the money however I was keen to find out more about the great work that EACH does so on Monday, very kindly hosted by Lucy from the fund raising team, I was given a full tour of the facilities.  It was both amazing and moving.

EACH have 3 hospices in the East Anglia region at Milton, Quidenham and Ipswich but their care services reach beyond these premises.  They support children with life threatening conditions and their families with physical hands on therapy and emotional support.  This can be at one of the three centres, in a community setting or in the family home depending on individual needs.

The hospice at Milton is set at the end of a quiet country lane which is home to some of the oldest dwellings in the village.  The original buildings, which formerly belonged to the parish church, are set in beautiful gardens and have been tasteful developed to provide the much needed accommodation, therapy and play space.  The centre is run by a mixture of staff and volunteers and I was immediately struck by how friendly and happy everyone is.

IMG_7394Lucy explained that the appearance of the hospice is carefully considered to provide a home from home environment.  This is evident with the beautiful wall mural that greets you in reception.  Everywhere we go there is colour and art work, much of it produced by the children during their art therapy sessions. Visual stimulation is very important to the children who visit and their various needs have all been considered.  For example, Lucy points out the balloons suspended from the ceiling to me.  Some of the children who cant’t sit upright will only have the upper walls and ceilings in their vision so these areas are made interesting too.  This type of detail is everywhere and its clear that serious thought has gone into every aspect of the care and design.

The visual stimulation is really indulged in the sensory room, somewhere I could have happily languished for a few hours.  Lights, music, projectors, water, a real place to unwind.

My favourite room was what I would describe as a multi-media space.  With special thought to teenage children and siblings the room is dominated by a massive flat screen through which the latest games consoles can be accessed as well as a substantial library of blockbuster movies.  Music decks and a whole raft of other “grown up” toys make sure that everyone is kept happy.

IMG_7808I was quite struck with how quiet the centre was when we arrived.  Lucy informed me that this is because the children and staff get out into the community whenever possible, perhaps to Milton Country Park just round the corner or further afield.  Indeed we only had time to quickly wave at the resident music therapist as he grabbed a few instruments and headed out of the door for the days sessions.  It was a pity he was passing through. I am informed that he has previously been joined by one of the centres ambassadors, Ed Sheeran, and I’d have liked to talk to him a bit about that day!

We did have time to talk with the resident chef however.  Many of the children who attend the hospice have complex dietary needs and these are all catered for without compromising on taste. We discussed some of these at length and our shared perspective on how important nutrition is, not just in poor health but to promote good health.  Chef was keen to point out that her nutritional programme isn’t just for the visiting children.  Many of the families overlook their own needs because of the demands and emotional strain of caring for their children so getting some good nutrition into the whole family is Chef’s aim.

Amongst the light, music and artwork, it is an unescapable fact that there is a more emotional side to the work.  Palliative care is provided and some of the facilities and services exist to support the families who are tragically affected by the loss of a child.  This support is not only during the final moments, but beyond as part of continued care programme and as an ongoing community where parents can re-attend annually for a remembrance day.

The cost of running all of this is, of course, substantial.  Across the 3 centres it costs about £16,000 per day to run, 365 days a year.  This equates to about £6 million a year.  This is funded mostly out of the generosity of donations.

In the modern world there are so many worthy causes looking for your help, its difficult to know where to pledge your support.  I can only say in support of EACH that the work they are doing is amazing.  They are currently raising funds for a new hospice in Norfolk and need a lot of support for this.  The video below provides more information on this project.

I am truly grateful to all of the people who sponsored my event helping to raise just short of £1,000.  If you haven’t donated yet and would like to this link will take you straight through to my just giving page – Just Giving

Please support this very worthy cause.

Thanks for reading – Tony

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