'Our goal is £1.5m so that we can help every child' Keech Hospice Care launches Herts appeal to extend its services
PUBLISHED: 17:08 12 March 2016
An historic mansion seen by millions on the BBC's new Sunday night costume drama Dr Thorne had another starring role as the venue for the launch of a charity appeal which aims to raise £1.5 million over the next three years.
The money will be used to fund hospice care for more seriously ill children in the county, with fears that hundreds are currently missing out on expert help.
Keech Hospice Care, which provides hospice care for children across Herts, already treats 150 children a year – but it’s reckoned that there are more than 900 children affected by life-limiting conditions in the county, and 400 of them could need support from the Keech team in any one year.
Services include respite care and treatment at the Keech base on the outskirts of Luton, as well as support for other family members and home visits by the charity’s community nursing team.
Former High Sheriff of Herts Fergus McMullen became aware of Keech’s ambition to expand its services during his year in office, and now he has taken on the challenge of raising the cash – hand picking a development board from different areas of the county to help him achieve his goal.
Speaking to a select gathering at Wrotham Park, an 18th century mansion not far from the M25 South Mimms service area, he said: “Like many hospices, Keech has to raise 70 per cent of its funding from the generosity of the public and only receives 30 per cent from government sources.
“The board has committed Keech realise its ambition of being able to reach out to every seriously ill child in Hertfordshire who needs them.
“As many children are too ill to travel, Keech plans to take a full children’s hospice service to them.
“Together we will expand Keech’s existing community nursing services into a full children’s hospice at home across Hertfordshire.”
Judith Richardson, the hospice’s lead community nurse for Herts, told audience members about the highs and lows of her work as part of the hospice team over the last seven years.
She said: “I’m often asked by people how I do the job I do. People say to me: ‘It must be so sad.’ Of course it is, but when death is inevitable it’s important to me that death is peaceful and dignified for every child.
“It’s important families across Herts know Keech is there for them, and we ensure there are enough nurses like me who are confident in looking after a dying child, who can support families in their most distressing and difficult times.
“From the day a child is diagnosed, Keech can be there offering the best care and support for free. We are there for the whole family, as long as they want our support.
“I know first hand the difference having more nurses and specialists like me could really make.
“We could reach and help many more sick children in the very town where you live.
“When it seems like life will never be the same again, Keech can be there.”
HOW KEECH HELPS FAMILIES IN NEED
Preparing a family for imminent death, giving exhausted parents a break, and feeding the ducks – it’s all part and parcel of the workload of the Keech community nursing team.
The hospice’s Judith Richardson revealed what her work involves when she spoke to guests at the appeal launch.
She said: “This week, like any other, I’ve been into schools, hospitals and homes across the county.
“I’ve supported not just the child, but mum and dad, brothers and sisters, wider family and friends to make their lives easier.
“I’ve talked to them about all the different kinds of services we can offer, including music, play and art therapy.
“I’ve supported parents at meetings to get the care their child so desperately needs.
“And I’ve helped exhausted and worried mums and dads learn to cope better as they look after a child with very complex needs.
“I spent this morning with a parent who has been told her child will probably die very soon. We have had to talk through treatment choices that are heartbreaking to decide what is best for her child.
“Keech’s play specialist has been out and about making memories for families that will last long after a child has died.
“One little boy is so poorly he’s never had the chance to feed the ducks because he can’t go out in public for fear of infection – so she brought the ducks to his house.
“I’ve also been involved in providing a symptom management plan for a teenager whose cancer was discovered too late. It has now spread to his spine and lungs and there is no further treatment for him. My role is to work with out doctor to draw up a plan to manage the symptoms so that he will have a peaceful and dignified death.
“We visit him at home, we are on call 24/7 and we will be with the family when he dies.
“We will also help care for him after death and help the family with the practical arrangements that need to be made once someone dies.”
l To find out more about the hospice and how you can get involved in its work, visit www.keech.org.uk.