News from Demelza
Next month marks Children’s Hospice Week (21-27 May), a national campaign raising awareness of children with terminal conditions, their families and the hospices who support them.
In this special feature, insideKENT hears from a Kent family supported by local charity Demelza Hospice Care for Children, which has been providing care in the county for 20 years.
Two young sisters sit at the table lost in concentration as they apply glitter – lots of glitter – to their colourful pictures. Their big brother has just vanished back to his favourite PlayStation game; mum and dad are chatting about their plans for the rest of the day.
It’s a typical scene of family life played out in homes up and down the land during the school holidays. But this particular scene is taking place at Demelza Hospice Care for Children in Sittingbourne – and the normality of it all is what makes it so special.
One of the little girls enjoying the art room is Giorgia, aged seven. When she was two weeks old she stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital – the beginning of what turned out to be a long and frustrating journey to find out what was wrong.
Numerous appointments and tests – which parents Tonia and Enzo had to deal with alongside their son Lucca’s autism spectrum disorder (ASD) needs and Tonia’s own health problems – failed to come up with an answer, leaving the family feeling completely isolated and unsupported.
When Giorgia was four, things suddenly got much worse. “It got very dark,” says Tonia. “She was self-harming, smashing things.” An emergency admission to hospital after a fit finally brought a diagnosis of tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a rare genetic condition that can cause a range of health problems including epilepsy, learning difficulties and ASD.
Two years on, Tonia says: “The diagnosis has given me strength, and now we’re part of the TSC community. It can be so isolating but now we feel normal.”
The family found out about Demelza from the parent of another child with TSC. Having been referred, they now all come for respite at the charity’s Sittingbourne hospice which opened in 1998. Luca, 15, has been on a siblings’ camp and Demelza arranged play therapy at school for Lilliana, eight.
“We try to come for a short break every school holiday. Giorgia will say to me: ‘Mummy, I’m ready for Demelza. I’m ready to play with my friends like me.’
“Demelza gives her a sense of belonging. It’s a relaxing time, and she comes away rejuvenated.”
As a charity, Demelza is almost entirely dependent on the generosity of our supporters to provide the funds that keep our services going.
Please make sure every family can depend on Demelza when they need it most by making a donation at www.demelza.org.uk
Demelza is bringing its fantastic Bubble Rush back to Kent on Sunday 12 August but at a new venue, Mote Park in Maidstone.
‘Bubblers’ of all ages will be making their way through 4ft (1.2m) walls of coloured foam along the 5K route (twice round a 2.5k course), all in support of Demelza.
The family friendly fun run is open to everyone – there are no age limits and the course is pushchair and wheelchair accessible.
Places cost £20 for adults and £10 for children 15 and under, with under 3s going free. New for 2018 is the family ticket (two adults and up to three children) costing £60.
Bubblers will receive a Bubble Rush T-shirt, a commemorative medal and a goody bag.
To sign up please visit www.demelza.org.uk/bubble-rush