LAST year the pandemic meant Christmas as we knew it, was completely changed for most of the country – and that was devastating for parents and families, like those that Demelza cares for, who simply don’t know how many Christmases they’ll have with their children.
So, this Christmas, Demelza is launching its #FestiveWishes Appeal so every child with a serious or terminal condition can receive the expert nursing care they will need over the holidays – as well some special festive wishes, including a special gift delivered by Demelza elves.
The charity is determined to raise £100,000 to deliver a magical Christmas for children like one-year-old Darcey, one of the stars of this year’s campaign.
When Zoe and Darren from South East London were 20 weeks pregnant, they were told their baby would need heart surgery – but would hopefully go on to lead a normal life. Darcey was born in October 2020 – and at two months old, had already been through two major operations.
“It was such a difficult time. The added complications and restrictions of COVID-19 prevented us from being with her as a family as we so desperately wanted to.”
Sadly, and very unexpectedly, just before Christmas Darcey started to struggle and the couple were given the devastating news from doctors that Darcey’s heart could not be fixed.
For Zoe and Darren, it was their festive wish to bring their baby daughter home from hospital on Christmas Eve last year so she could be surrounded by family and love.
“Darcey was very fragile and we were told she could pass away at any moment. With a tube helping her to breathe, she just looked so poorly. Very quickly our thoughts turned to Archie, Darcey’s four-year-old brother. How could we possibly break the news to him? Having only met his little sister once, he longed for her to come home whilst, of course, being very excited about Christmas! We desperately wanted to give Archie a happy memory of his sister and his new family and didn’t want this Christmas and those that followed to be focused on sadness. And so, we decided we would bring Darcey home on Christmas Eve. Being together as a family at home for the first time would make Christmas Eve our special day to celebrate for years to come.”
Demelza registered nurse Lottie is part of a team of nurses, support staff and volunteers who work across Kent, South East London and East Sussex to give care and support to the most vulnerable children in the local community.
On Christmas Eve 2020, Lottie supported Zoe and Darren to bring their little girl home so Darcey could spend her last precious days there.
“That day, Lottie helped us make all sorts of precious memories. She took clay impressions of Darcey’s feet so we could remember how delicate they were. I remember that she laughed when she realised I had bought 10 kits! It was so comforting to have Darcey home for Christmas, with the chance to take lots of photos and have cuddles.
“After just a few hours, it was time for the nurses to remove Darcey’s breathing tube. We had no idea whether she would breathe for herself or for how long. We kissed Darcey, left the room and waited anxiously. And then we heard the sound I had missed so much – Darcey’s cry. It was the most beautiful sound, reassuring us she was breathing by herself.”
Wonderfully, Darcey had her first Christmas with her family and nurse Lottie continues to support them with vital care at home.
“Darcey needs constant care and medications to keep her comfortable. She breathes for herself but needs to receive a slow, steady flow of milk through a nasal tube via a pump. It can be fairly exhausting and the idea of ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’ is far from possible as I have to ensure she is receiving milk safely and give her medications throughout the day. Day or night we also need to try to prevent her from crying as this could place too much stress on her heart.
“The reason I am sharing my story is for others to hopefully understand how utterly life-changing Demelza’s care really is – the care that is made possible when people support them. Lottie is so wonderful, calm and knowledgeable and we can hand Darcey over to her without worry, knowing that she will care for our little girl as if she was her own. A home visit from Lottie means she takes over all of Darcey’s care for a few short hours, enabling us to spend some quality time with Archie or get some much-needed rest.”
The pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions have drastically reduced Demelza’s ability to hold fundraising events and activities. Money raised by the #FestiveWishes Appeal will therefore ensure children of all ages will receive the expert care they need over the holidays and throughout 2022.
Over this festive season, Demelza will welcome many children to its hospice in Sittingbourne and Eltham. Each hour one child is there, adding up all the nursing and support, will cost around £49. A donation of £21 will fund a session with Demelza’s Family Support team, giving parents and carers the support they need to get through Christmas. A longer, more complex visit to see a child in their home – like when Lottie goes to see Darcey – typically costs £182.
The charity is also planning some extra special festive wishes for all the families it supports, including a special gift delivered by Demelza elves and an opportunity to receive a personalised letter or video message from the big man himself. Plans are also in place for Father Christmas to make an appearance at some of the virtual music and art therapy sessions and parties Demelza teams will be hosting online.
“Demelza’s care is unique – and vital for children like Darcey. I am now her lead nurse and I have had the delight of seeing her beautiful little face many times this year. She is still exceptionally poorly and her life is in a very delicate balance and my knowledge and experience are challenged every time I see her. I will do everything I can to help their festive wish come true – simply being able to celebrate another Christmas Day together. Anything our supporters can manage to contribute this Christmas will be amazing and will make a difference to a child’s experience.”
This Christmas help Demelza to wave a magic wand over children with serious or terminal conditions. By giving the gift of care, you can make festive wishes come true – and create treasured family memories that will last forever.
To donate to Demelza’s #FestiveWishes campaign, watch the appeal video and help support children like Darcey, go to: www.demelza.org.uk/christmas.
What your Christmas appeal donation could help pay for:
£49 could pay for a full hour of dedicated nursing care for a child at Demelza over the holiday
£21 will help fund a Family Support team session, helping parents get through to Christmas
£32 will help us buy a toy appropriate for a child to be delivered to their home by a special Demelza Elf
Find out more about Demelza at www.demelza.org.uk, follow the charity on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demelzahospice or @demelzahospice on Twitter.