“The question I was once asked was:
What does the CHSW mean to me?' The answer is everything.
Children's Hospice South West and in particular Little Bridge House has captured my heart. Sadly in June 2015 my cheeky little 18 month old son Kaleb passed away at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital. We then spent a period of time at Little Bridge House before his funeral.
On arrival at Little Bridge House, that Sunday morning in June the Care Team were so welcoming, reassuring and focused to help me through the days that lay ahead. I remember clear as day, through all the emotions, that I took a step back and looked around it was so warm and I felt at home at Little Bridge House. It felt the perfect place for my son to rest and for myself to prepare plans for his funeral.
Kaleb spent time after his in ‘Starborn', a beautiful, gentle and peaceful room to remember, reflect and embrace final memories.
After I had settled in at Little Bridge House and been for a long run on the Tarka Trail around North Devon I spent a couple of hours just sat cuddling and chatting to Kaleb (who I always called Scrat, it was a Father/Son thing.) I was then shown around Little Bridge House, the house has plenty of facilities and activities for children, adults and siblings such as a main living area, a multi-sensory room with lights, sounds and textures to soothe and calm, a kitchen that never stops feeding the house, a messy play room for carefree creativity, a chapel to sit and think, a soft play area for safe, trouble-free fun and my own personal favourite a hydrotherapy pool.
Outside there is a beautiful garden full of singing birds and blossoming flowers. The secret world of Narnia lays quietly tucked away, a sensory garden, which was based on C.S Lewis' magical book 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe'. The garden and Narnia are well loved by both children and parents. I spent countless hours wondering around the garden processing my thoughts.
In the coming days, the funeral was arranged, we designed the Order Of Service and the coffin which we called 'Kaleb’s Forever Bed' arrived, which we were able to personalise.
Arranging a funeral is seen as a very sad, painful and tough time, even more so for a child of any age let along 18 months old, but thanks to the wonderful help of CHSW, I can honestly say it was enjoyable, light-hearted and a memory I will hold close to me forever.
During my stay at Little Bridge House, there was never a moment where I didn't feel supported, cared for or looked after. From being fed non-stop by the cooks in the kitchen, to the staff who were always available to listen and chat to anytime day or night and the respect shown to be able to have some time alone to deal with the sad reality of life and how my world had changed forever overnight.
I said at Kaleb's funeral 'Every little boy’s first hero is their Daddy” but in this case Daddy's hero was his little boy.
I still feel supported by the Care Team, I get phone calls to check I'm ok, little text messages just to know the team are thinking of me at difficult times and most importantly the door to CHSW is always open, that feels very special. I've returned to Little Bridge a few times, I find such comfort in returning, walking around and remembering my beautiful little boy.
It's time for me to now give something back to CHSW in support of everything they have done and still do to support me and many other families and I am delighted to be taking part in the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon in my CHSW top and hope to raise as much money as possible. Running saved my life while Kaleb was poorly, now it's time to help other families make life lasting memories with the help of CHSW.
To sum up, CHSW are a fantastic charity, something I will never take for granted. The word 'Hospice' is very scary to any parent, family member or the general public but I strongly believe everybody needs to take some time to visit Little Bridge House, Little Harbour or Charlton Farm to understand how warm, welcoming and peaceful it really is.
Everybody who walks through the doors at CHSW are welcomed with open arms and made to feel very special. My life will never be the same, my heart will forever be broken but with the help of CHSW I will forever have great memories which I will cherish for a lifetime.