The sudden death of a child is unimaginable at any time, but even more so at Christmas. Martin House Children’s Hospice has launched its Christmas appeal by focusing on the specialist support it gives to families across Yorkshire at the most devastating time in their lives.
As well as providing specialist palliative care to children and young people with life-shortening conditions, Martin House also provides care after death and bereavement support to families following the sudden death of a child.
Darren Midgley and Cheryl Szulhan were supported by Martin House after the death of their 16-month-old son Jack, last Boxing Day.
Jack, who had been a happy, healthy boy, had enjoyed a normal family Christmas the day before, but his parents discovered he had died in his sleep – his death has since been ruled a sudden unexplained death in childhood.
Darren, Cheryl and their older son Louis, now four, were able to come to Martin House, where Jack could be cared for in one of its special cooled bedrooms.
Darren said: “We felt like we’d been thrown into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, in a storm at night with nowhere to go, and Martin House provided an anchor for us.
“It was a huge comfort to us to know Jack was being looked after in a bedroom, in his Christmas pyjamas, and the staff would be there to talk to him and put his night light on.”
The family spent five days at Martin House, until a postmortem could take place. They were able to spend time with Jack when they wanted, with the hospice care team on hand to support them, and also provide memory keepsakes using Jack’s hand and footprints. The family also receive ongoing bereavement support from the hospice.
Darren said: “Until Jack died, we didn’t know Martin House supported families after the sudden death of a child. We don’t know what we’d have done without Martin House, or where we would be now if we didn’t have that support.”
Martin House is a specialist centre for children’s palliative care, supporting families across West, North and East Yorkshire, in addition to providing care to families following the sudden death of a child.
It costs around £9 million annually to run the hospice, which cares for more than 440 families and a further 160 bereaved families every year.
Victoria Greensmith, director of clinical services at Martin House, said: “The care we give to families like Darren and Cheryl, at what is the most devastating time of their lives, is invaluable.
“Being able to come to Martin House gives them precious extra time to say goodbye to their child, while having the support of our care team around them.
“We can only provide this care because of the generous support of the Yorkshire community. We are urging people to donate to our Christmas appeal, so we can continue to be there for families when they need us most.”
To find out more about Darren and Cheryl’s story, and donate to the Martin House Christmas appeal, visit www.martinhouse.org.uk/MakeEveryChristmasCount