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Polly, Peaches and Henry at Little Bridge House
Polly, Peaches and Henry love coming to stay at Little Bridge House
Support from the hospice has helped Peaches to 'feel like a mummy' again

When mum-of-two Peaches was referred to Little Bridge House by a community nurse in January 2022, she said she hadn’t heard much about the hospice before, and the thought of going felt quite daunting.

Polly, Peaches and Henry at Little Bridge House

She was exhausted caring for Henry, age 4, and his 2-year-old sister Polly, who has a large hole in her heart and is likely to need open heart surgery before her next birthday. 

But the thought of stepping out of routine and packing up lots of medical equipment to travel just a few short miles from her home in Barnstaple to the hospice in Fremington was overwhelming.

“It was so much for me to think about on top of everything else so I delayed coming to stay for a long time until I completely peaked and was so exhausted that I didn't actually have any choice,” said Peaches.

I think I actually rang in tears and said, ‘please, I need to come and stay with you, I need rescuing’.

Within 10 minutes of stepping through the doors at Little Bridge House, many months of stress began to lift as a blanket of support they had all needed for so long was wrapped around the family.

Henry grabbed a toy motorbike and started zooming up and down the corridors with a little friend he’d made from another family. One of the hospice nurses took Polly off for a bath while Peaches was able to settle in with a cup of warm tea.

“It’s difficult to put into words but as soon as you go through the front door you just feel like you’re wrapped in a big hug,” said Peaches.

Polly meets Santa at Little Bridge House
“You can have the best family, the best friends, the best support network from the NHS but Little Bridge House just does something that you just can't describe. It's literally saved my soul.”

Peaches, Polly and Henry have since visited the hospice for resilience stays and day visits, and the emotional and practical support provided has been game-changing.

It was during a 12 week scan that Peaches was told that Polly had an exomphalos, a type of abdominal wall defect that meant her liver, bowel and part of her stomach had all formed on the outside of her body contained within a sack.

“I was referred to Bristol and kept under the close watch of the foetal medicine team from then on,” said Peaches. 

“Because of her exomphalos, Polly’s heart and her lungs weren’t able to form properly so we were also under the care of the cardiology team in Bristol. Polly was born in Bristol and was there for the first 6 months of her life; she had a very challenging time in hospital with her surgeries, breathing, her heart and feeding.” 

Polly at Little Bridge House

When things finally became more stable for Polly, Peaches was able to bring her home. Polly still needed a lot of medical care but as she’s grown, she’s needed less and less and has continued to thrive.

“On a day-to-day basis Polly is absolutely fine with her heart, but it will affect her as she grows so she will need open heart surgery, probably around 3 years old when she’s at a really good weight,” said Peaches.

“Polly’s open heart surgery is her final hurdle. And the best thing that's going to get her through it is her mummy being able to blend up amazing foods to go down her tube to help get her body the best it can be!

“I had been really struggling with was her sickness and low blood sugars, and that's when Little Bridge House did the most amazing thing that's ever happened for Polly. The hospice helped me to get her set up on a blended diet via tube feeds and it’s because of the help and support that Polly’s blood sugars are now stable.

“I just didn't know where to start and she has gone from being sick with every feed from birth to not being sick at all. Little Bridge House gave Polly the best medicine she’s ever had – food!

“I swear by a blended vegan diet for Polly and can't thank Little Bridge House enough for opening up doors I never would have known existed.”

Emotionally, visits to Little Bridge House have also helped the family to step away from the demands of caring and make special memories together, including meeting Father Christmas at the hospice. 

We always have such an amazing time together, just the three of us.

“Henry’s obsessed with the soft play and Polly loves the little Wendy house with the kitchen. For me, I get a really lovely content feeling of just being a mummy, and I think the children can feel that I'm so relaxed in that environment.

“Using the hydrotherapy pool together, seeing Polly and Henry having fun in the soft play area, having a cooked lunch and knowing that we have all had such a lovely day is very special.”

Polly and her mum Peaches enjoying craft activities at Little Bridge House

Matthew (Polly and Henry’s daddy) and Peaches are no longer together but co-parent well and have supported each other throughout Polly’s whole journey. Matthew said he was also grateful for the respite they receive.

"Polly just wouldn’t be where she is today without Little Bridge House,” he said.

“It’s amazing for Peaches too, and Henry always asks when he’s next going to Little Bridge House for a holiday!