Benjamin Futter first came to Bluebell Wood when his sister, Issabelle, was transferred from hospital and passed away here.
The youngster is an active member of the hospice’s sibling group, which gives him the opportunity to meet and take part in a range of fun, special activities alongside other children whose siblings are being cared for by Bluebell Wood.
His sister, seven-year-old Issabelle, was a beautiful, courageous girl who had been fighting neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, for three years. Her parents Wendy and Andrew, along with Benjamin, were by her side every step of the way and wanted to spend precious moments altogether in the final moments of her life.
Wendy explains: “Issabelle was so much fun; full of life, smiley and mischievous. She was outgoing, very caring and popular.”
The family first started to notice that Issabelle wasn’t herself in 2009. Doctors tested her for conditions including swine flu and appendicitis and in October that year came the news that no family can prepare for.
Issabelle immediately underwent an intense course of chemotherapy at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and spent a Christmas there. The lovely girl underwent pioneering treatment including a stem cell transplant and had lots of spells of chemotherapy and radiotherapy; she was treated in both Sheffield and London.
Issabelle was given the all clear at different stages through her three-year battle and despite everything, remained her bubbly self throughout.
“Remarkably, she seemed fine and managed to be herself in so many ways,” said Wendy. “Things never really phased her, she never complained. She knew about everything going on and spent time at school when she was well enough – she had so many friends supporting her, which was lovely.”
Not long afterwards, Issabelle and her family received news that the neuroblastoma had spread. It was then that they all visited Bluebell Wood and made the decision to move to the hospice.
Wendy explains: “Issabelle was keen to come to Bluebell Wood as she wanted to sleep at that stage and it was far more relaxed here than in hospital. Benjamin enjoyed it straight away. Transferring to Bluebell Wood was amazing. It is such a tranquil and calming place; everyone welcomed us thoroughly.”
The family were all able to stay together in one room at Bluebell Wood, to be by Issabelle’s side. “We could all be a family again. We were altogether the night Issabelle passed away; we could see she was peaceful and comfortable and that was so very important.”
The family stayed in the hospice’s Forget Me Not end-of-life suite for two weeks, while they made funeral arrangements. “It meant the world to us knowing that friends and family could visit. It was a weight off our shoulders knowing that Benjamin was being looked after and entertained by the staff. All of this really helped Benjamin to cope as well.”
Ever since, the family have kept in contact with Bluebell Wood. Benjamin has taken part in activities including ‘designing an app’ and gone to concerts through the siblings group. Wendy sometimes has massages and other therapies at Bluebell Wood and the whole family often visit too, because it is place where they feel close to Issabelle.
Wendy explains: “The word hospice can be quite scary to some parents. But Bluebell Wood is nothing like what you might think before you come here as a parent; it’s so welcoming and full of love. It gave us a place to say our goodbyes and it’s really special to us.”