When Nurse Team Leader Jo Chambers first visited Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, it was world’s away from what she’d expected.

Her initial reservations quickly melted away, and she’s now spent seven rewarding years making memories with children and families.

“I walked through the door for an open day and I knew it was the place for me,” said Jo.

“The hospice is not at all what you picture a hospice to be, it’s a happy place for making memories.

“I find my role so rewarding; no two days are the same. Everything we do makes such a massive difference to families. 

“For families who are sadly visiting for end of life care, it’s about making the worst time in someone’s life the best it can be for them. While for families visiting for respite care, it’s such an important break. When parents come here for a few nights, they will say, ‘this is the only time I ever get a good night’s sleep’.

Jo says preconceptions about children’s hospices are something she encounters regularly.

“When you tell people where you work, I often get the comment, ‘oh - you work in a hospice, that must be so sad’.

“Yes, there are times that are emotionally challenging, such as when you get to know a family over a number of years and then the worst happens.

“But, the care and support doesn’t end there and there’s always an opportunity to help. We have a comprehensive bereavement support service to help them along the road ahead.

“Often the family will come back and visit because they have that link with us and the hospice. One family with a baby girl who had an undiagnosed condition spent a number of weeks with us at the end. Her mum comes back to the hospice quite often, because this is the place she knew her baby. We also offer sibling support, so her brothers and sisters could come here and be a family together. It really helped them process what was happening.”

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Jo says bringing people together is also an incredibly important, if often overlooked, aspect of the charity’s work.

“The hospice itself does make a real difference – it’s very welcoming. It’s a home from home where families can meet others in similar circumstances.

“They can meet in the lounge have a coffee and a chat for an hour in a relaxed environment. Going to a café to meet friends isn’t practically easy and, sadly, they can’t always relax as others sometimes stare at them.

“The support networks that families build up with each other are amazing too. They are all following a similar pathway, so having a strong network is so important.

“When you have a child with complex medical needs, simple everyday things like taking a child on holiday can be very difficult.

“Often families will come to the hospice as a holiday, so the family can all be together, with mum and dad not being the caregivers for a few days and just enjoying being mum and dad.

“The care staff can be on hand for the child with additional needs, so the pressure is taken off the parents.

“But it’s so much more than that. Families enjoy using all our services, such as music therapy, physiotherapy and our hydrotherapy pool. It allows the children to express themselves; they can let out frustration and joy, and really show how they are feeling.”