"We accessed hospice services 6 months after the birth of my granddaughter, Brooke. We thought she was well when she was born and then 4 days after, we were rushed in to hospital where she spent her first Christmas. Things went downhill from there. When we were told that she had a rare, undiagnosed neurological disorder. My daughter Bonnie and I spent a lot of time in between hospitals in Newham, London and Paddington. We were pointed towards Richard House by Newham Hospital for support where we were told there was nothing the Doctors could do, it was just a matter of when.

Jackie and Brooke

My daughter and I were a bit apprehensive about visiting Richard House initially, because we hadn’t visited a hospice beforehand so we were going into the unknown. When we arrived, we were given a tour and realised it wasn’t what we thought it would be, everyone was friendly and very approachable. Where would we be without Richard house and the hospitals we frequented? Everybody played their part in being supportive and Richard House was at the forefront of that.

Caring for a life-limited child can take its toll on you. Thankfully, at Richard House there were many Play and Care Workers and Nurses that supported us by participating in activities with Brooke and more. They became more than just staff at Richard House, they became our friends. When we did have emergencies with Brooke’s health, 9/10 times we were able stay in the family flats at the hospice, their services were and still are free of charge. There was always someone there to support us, from staff and the receptionist, everybody was there and therefore you never felt alone. When we walked through the door, we were greeted by a friendly face and it was nice to have even just a general chat at times.

We were even able to stay at the hospice on a couple of occasions when we didn’t know which way Brooke’s health would turn but she was a little fighter. She could send you to the depths in fearing the worst and then all of a sudden, she would bounce back to better health and we’d enjoy a good few weeks together as a family which was lovely. The worst thing was knowing that there wasn’t anything we could do.

Without Richard House, we wouldn’t have got through it. We wouldn’t have been able to create the memories that we had, if it hadn’t been for the support we received. Everybody did their upmost and Brooke had the best care she could have had. We always count Richard House as her 2nd home. She sadly passed away in 2010 at 16 months old. The length of time was a lot longer than what we thought we would have and so we consider ourselves very blessed.

Jackie taking part in Richard House's Penguin Waddle event

 Leave a Decoration on our Christmas Tree

Brooke’s other granddad always promised he would take her to Disneyland and sadly that didn’t happen because of her life-limited illness. We therefore decided to go to Disneyland Paris to celebrate her birthday in winter, the year that she died. We had a meal and let off some balloons in the sky, in memory of her. At the time, the shops sold some beautiful Christmas decorations and I brought a couple to put on the Christmas tree for Brooke. Bonnie also bought some, including my grandson and the next year I said to my husband I would like to place a bauble on the tree to celebrate the day Brooke came in to our lives. Every year thereafter, wherever we are, we buy a special bauble in memory of her. She was born 12 days before Christmas on the 13th December, it’s her 13th birthday this year. When we walk around the stores, I just know when we have spotted the perfect bauble for her.

I remember Brooke every day, I was there when she was born and I will continue to keep her memory alive in this way for as long as I can; that’s my way of having a happy Christmas and singing her a happy birthday and letting her know how much we love her and how much she is still missed.

It was always a calm and peaceful atmosphere at Richard House and we know even though time has lapsed, if we need support we can always reach out to the hospice. Just because someone has passed away that pain never goes away, you just learn to navigate life around it, this is why I support Richard House and have done so over the years. I remember purchasing tickets for a raffle they had in exchange for bricks to have the hospice built.  Our family would always write messages for Brooke in the notebook in the Quiet Room at the hospice, leaving card and flowers. Richard House is a part of Brooke and will always have a special place in our hearts.

A lot of people have lost loved ones in the last 18 months due to the pandemic, and if we can inspire someone to place a bauble on a Christmas tree in memory of someone, hopefully that could be the start of Brooke's legacy”.

This year the hospice is providing the local community with the opportunity to spread festive cheer to those worst affected by the pandemic, by placing a decoration on the Richard House virtual Christmas tree, in aid of seriously ill children. You can bring the magic of Christmas to a seriously ill child and their family, here https://visufund.com/the-great-richard-house-christmas-tree

 Leave a Decoration on our Christmas Tree