Many of you will have heard of Helen & Douglas House, probably from seeing one of their 29 charity shops in Oxfordshire, Berkshire or Hampshire. But how many of you know what the charity actually does? We were honoured to be invited along for a personal tour with PR and Marketing Manager Janet Carruzzo.
Helen & Douglas House is a hospice for babies and children with life shortening illnesses. They provide respite care, support for the whole family and a home from home when it’s needed most. Their care goes beyond the walls of the hospice with support being given to families in their own homes and over the phone 24/7.
The hospice has a Doctor on site 24 hours a day, every single day of the year. Every patient has at least 1 carer on a 1:1 basis, sometimes more than 1 if needed. This means that when families come to visit the carer can take over doing all the caring/medical side of things and the family can actually enjoy just playing together and making memories. It takes the pressure off of Mum and Dad and gives them time to relax.
Upstairs there are 2 apartments where parents and siblings can stay overnight so they are close by but able to have a break as well. This allows families to go out and do things they wouldn’t normally be able to do while their child is being cared for by the nurse team. Parents can even have a well-earned night out together but return to the hospice to stay nearby their child overnight. It also gives families some private space when they are staying for end of life care. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be in this situation but knowing that Helen & Douglas House is able to provide such amazing support to these families is hugely reassuring.
Of course it’s not just about the child with a life-limiting illness. The hospice also provides support and counseling for the parents, siblings and wider families. There are activities specifically for siblings so they can come together and meet other children who have a sibling with a life-limiting illness. This helps them to support each other and know that they are not alone.
Helen & Douglas House focus on helping make memories with the families for them to treasure forever. They do their best to make wishes come true. One child wanted to go to the beach but was unable to due to their medical needs. Instead, the hospice set up a beach in the garden with loads of sand, paddling pools, bucket and spades, a punch and Judy show and even an ice cream van! Another child loved pirates so they held a summer pirate party where everyone dressed up and even a Captain Jack Sparrow look-a-like came to visit! All of this is made possible thanks to volunteers giving their time and through donations made to the charity.
On our visit to the hospice it struck me how friendly and welcoming the staff were. Everyone we passed smiled and said hello. There was a family enjoying the arts and crafts area which had lots of different craft activities. We took a bag of Easter crafts for the children to have fun with over the Easter period and can’t wait to see photos of their creations.
There are lots of toys and sofas in a large communal play area, as well as plenty of sensory play space. This includes a specially designed sensory room with a water bed for children to lay on and enjoy the lights and bubbles. Another popular room (and Cody and Lois’s favourite!) is the games room. This has different game consoles in it for children and teenagers to enjoy playing with their friends. A special eye-tracking computer allows children with limited mobility to play by moving their eyes. The technology is incredible!
As a swimming teacher I was really excited to see that Helen & Douglas House has a hydrotherapy pool. This allows families to enjoy the water together, something which is often impossible for a severely disabled child. They have a hoist to help get the child in and out of the pool and large changing tables for undressing and dressing. The nurse team take responsibility for the child so the family can simply enjoy playing with them in the water without any of the stress. It’s great for physiotherapy and of course the parents can relax and enjoy it after the kids have gone to bed too!
As you can imagine Helen & Douglass House is an absolute lifetime for many families who travel from far and wide to visit. Their facilities and level of support are second to none but this all comes at a huge price. The hospice relies very heavily on public support and donations, so how can you help?
Coming up on 7th June 2020 is the Bubble Rush event in Oxford University Parks. This is a really fun event that the whole family can enjoy. The route takes you through 4 fun bubble filled stations with cannons pumping bubbles up to 4 feet high in lots of different colours! You can walk, skip, run, whatever you like and the route is pushchair/wheelchair friendly too. It’s a 2.5k circuit which you go round twice, meaning you go through the bubble stations 8 times in total! If doing it twice is too much you can always stop after 1 circuit.
When you arrive at the parks you will be given a free Bubble Rush t-shirt to wear and can take part in a fun Zumba warm-up. There is music and entertainment as well as food and drink stalls. Early bird tickets are on sale now and you have until 15th March to get your discounted ticket price, plus under 3s take part for free! To sign up follow the link here: https://www.helenanddouglas.org.uk/event/helen-douglas-house-bubble-rush/. We’ll be there and we cannot wait! If you see us make sure you come and say hi!