I’m Lucy and I work at the head office for Acorns Children’s Hospice. Acorns is the largest children’s hospice in the U.K., with three hospices and just under 2,000 beneficiaries. For those who have been fortunate enough not to experience hospice life, the stereotypical image of what hospice areas might encompass usually falls into the realms of a ‘sad place to be’. Many assume that children’s hospices are filled to the brim with doom and gloom. They assume that going to a hospice will be a thought-provoking experience, but an experience that causes extreme sadness and misery. The ‘stereotypical’ (and simply not accurate) portrayal of children who attend these hospices is often conjured up in a way that paints the children to always be in their last stages of life.
In fact, a large majority of the children that attend Acorns Children’s Hospice do have life-limiting or life-threatening conditions however; this does not mean that the hospice is their final resting place. Maybe mum wants a relaxing spa day with her friends. Maybe dad wants to finish that book he’s been struggling to fit time into read. Many children check-into Acorns simply to ‘relax’. From the state-of-the-art hydrotherapy room, to the wonderful home-cooked food; children and their parents often come to Acorns to receive the kind and loving care of the staff and volunteers at the hospices, and the equipment that is provided.
I visited my first ever children’s hospice a couple of months ago. Acorns’ Selly Oak hospice is based in Birmingham, and opened in 1988. It has space for 10 children to stay, and it also provides on-site accommodation, so that family members can be close by. Before my visit, I was undoubtedly nervous. I was worried that I would stumble into a dark, miserable, depressing space, where I would witness sad, lonely children who were suffering in unimaginable ways. How I was proved wrong.
Upon entering Selly Oak Hospice (a modern, homely building with lovely plants outside), I was greeted by the hospice’s head nurse. Warm, friendly and beaming with positive energy, she introduced me to the hospice staff and volunteers. The overall layout of the hospice was extremely ‘homely’, with all the bedrooms personalised for each individual child and each playroom brimming with new toys and games. Whilst most of the children were out attending school, the children that remained in the hospice appeared to be having a great time – running around the hospice, watching T.V. or playing with each other.
Visiting the hospice was extremely uplifting. Acorns hospices are places that foster feelings of joy, compassion and fun! Yes, the children are life-limited and/or life-threatened but this does not take away from the fact that they are children who want to have fun. Acorns’ hospices provide a safe, loving environment for the children and their parents to make the very most of all the precious time they have together, and are unimaginably important. They’re anything but gloomy and I can honestly say that I’m very excited for my next visit.