Changing Lives: A Helping Hand

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A Child and a toddler sitting in a field smiling picking flowers
In each issue, Living North spotlights an individual, small group or charity doing inspirational work in and around Yorkshire. This time, we look at the Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice in Huddersfield

‘Most people associate a hospice with somewhere you go to die and that’s actually far from the truth,’ says Sharon Burton, Director of Care at Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice. This purpose-built facility makes use of some of the best technology in its field and provides care, support and honesty to families at times when they need it most.

The hospice deals with children, and the extended families of children, with life-limiting or shortening illnesses, and has two main sides to the care it offers: in-home care and respite care in-hospice. ‘We’re a nurse-led organisation,’ Sharon explains. ‘We have specialist nurses who can treat children to make sure they’re comfortable and getting the right medication, whilst enabling them to live their lives.’

The hospice offers further services, depending upon an individual family’s needs. These include playing with the children and their siblings; looking after them to give their parents some respite; providing a variety of specialist facilities; various therapy sessions; counselling and support facilities and memory-making services that Sharon is particularly keen to talk about.   

‘Our music therapist will take a baby’s heartbeat and use it in a lullaby,’ she explains. ‘We can also take a baby’s clothes and make them into things that the mum and dad can keep.’ 

The hospice offers a perinatal service that means a family will be supported as soon as a life-limiting and life-shortening diagnosis has been made, even if that’s during pregnancy. One such case that Sharon talks about is a particularly heart-warming story: ‘A lady was given a diagnosis that her baby would probably not survive pregnancy,’ Sharon explains. ‘The family was referred to us so we supported her at scans and other appointments, and helped her make lots of memories.
‘And then baby did actually get through pregnancy, and delivery,’ Sharon continues. ‘Just a few hours after the delivery, Mum and baby came to the hospice, and we helped ready them for going home.

‘We’ve continued to support that family,’ Sharon explains. They come to our baby group and this child’s now 14 months old, and is now transitioning to our toddler group – she’ll continue to get supported for as long as they need us. She was quite a surprise – the diagnosis will always remain the same – we’re always honest about that – it’s just children will pick their own time. Every day is a bonus that the family didn’t think they were ever going to get.’

However, providing this service is not cheap. ‘The hospice building is in Huddersfield but we look after children all across West Yorkshire,’ Kirsty Franks, the Head of Marketing at the hospice, explains. ‘This means we have to raise £4 million every year to do what we do.

‘At the moment, we support 300 children and families,’ she continues. ‘We’ve got huge growth plans: we aim to reach an additional 200 children every year for the next five years. We’ve grown rapidly, but there’s an awful lot more to do.

‘Less than four percent of our funding comes from the government,’ Kirsty says. ‘We rely absolutely massively on our supporters – we simply couldn’t do what we do without the support of these amazing people.’

Kirsty is particularly excited for Yorkshire Day on 1 August. ‘Organisations, schools and businesses can all get involved by simply running a tea party and donating the funds to Forget Me Not,’ she says. ‘In return, we’ll shout about it all over our various social media channels to thank the many wonderful people that are supporting us.’

For more information or to donate visit www.forgetmenotchild.co.uk

Published in: September 2017

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