I’m Pamela Armstrong and I’m one of the specialist nurses here at Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice. Today, I’m here to ask you to show your support for life-limited children across Northern Ireland and help us create the most special Christmas possible for all the ‘Little Stars’ we look after.
People often assume the word ‘hospice’ to mean care given at the end of life and, sadly, we do look after children in their final days, giving them the chance to die with dignity. But alongside this, a huge part of our role is to enable those ‘every day’ life experiences most of us take for granted. It’s always our hope and ambition to bring these really important moments into the lives of vulnerable children, and their families, who live with life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses. Because, no matter how unwell, no matter the severity and complexity of their condition, all of our children still need and deserve the same opportunities and experiences as any other; fun, laughter and the chance to play with their friends and families.
Some of the Little Stars I look after have really challenging, complex medical conditions needing every bit of my 20+ years’ experience of children’s nursing. But, what we also strive to achieve – whenever we can – is to give these children special moments and experiences, which will in turn become precious memories for their families in the future.
One of ‘my’ Little Stars is Jamie, a beautiful eight-year-old boy. I’ve known him and his mum Carla for nearly three years now and I’ve got to know them both very well. Jamie can’t move by himself and can’t communicate verbally, but he’ll certainly let you know when he’s having fun. He loves the simple things; being cuddled, playing with noisy toys and especially being the centre of attention!
Jamie comes to the Hospice for a couple of days at a time, a few times a year, which gives Carla a break and time to spend with her partner David and daughter Lara. And, you know, that’s what our Hospice is actually all about – because care for the child is also care for the family.
Carla has written down her own thoughts about what children’s hospice care means to her and Jamie – I encourage you to read what she says. There’s no-one better able to explain the importance of our care than a Hospice mum or dad!
Christmas is fast approaching and it’s always the most challenging and emotional time of the year for every family we know. Christmas is, of course, a time for children, for family; for togetherness. When a child in that family is life-limited, when that Christmas might be the last they have together, making it special is more important than ever.
So, we’ll be working hard over the holidays to give every child the chance to enjoy the best possible Christmas. Hopefully, we’ll be able to ensure everyone makes it home for Christmas Day. But, if a child needs to be here with us at the Hospice, that’s what we’ll do.
Without doubt the highlight is our big Christmas party. All the children are invited with their parents, brothers and sisters. There will be entertainers, music, lots of party food and balloons everywhere. Every child is given a small gift just for them, delivered by Santa and Mrs Claus, of course! It’s always an incredibly moving, magical day.
How you can help this Christmas
Firstly, if you can, please could you consider making a donation towards the cost of caring for children like Jamie this Christmas? On average, we will have to find £30 to pay for a nurse like me to spend an hour with one of our Little Stars over Christmas.
I hope this is something you feel able to do for our children and families. Your generous support is so important to us, we are so grateful to you. On behalf of everyone here, please accept my best wishes to you and your loved ones. Have a lovely Christmas.
Northern Ireland Hospice Children’s Community Nurse