A young Manchester City football fan whose older sister receives respite care at Francis House Children’s Hospice had an unforgettable Christmas video call with two members of Manchester City’s women’s team.
After Coronavirus ended the Club’s plans for their annual Christmas visit to the hospice in Didsbury, a series of calls took place to ensure that the men’s and women’s players could still meet with the poorly children, young people and their families.
Among them were Kaitlin Brookshaw, 10, and mum Andrea, from Ashton-under-Lyne on a very special video link up with players Esme Morgan and Megan Campbell as the pair took a break from training.
Kaitlin’s older sister Isabel attends Francis House for respite care after waking up one morning seven years ago, unable to breathe, talk or move.
“Kaitlin is a big City fan, we’ve been to a few of the women’s team’s matches and met some of the players on their amazing annual Christmas visits to the hospice.
“Being able to speak to them one to one was a unique experience. Everyone was chatty, and Kaitlin and I had our City jumpers on, so they really liked that.”
Football mad Kaitlin plays for Ashton-under-Lyne club Aim FC, and when asked if she could have a training session with any player of her choice, she politely answered Steph Houghton as she is also a defender.
“We talked about Christmas dinner and Esme Morgan revealed her dislike of Brussels sprouts, although her dad makes her eat at least two. Kaitlin doesn’t like sprouts either and I joked that I am too easy on her as don’t make her eat them.
“For Christmas dinner, she would prefer to eat chicken nuggets! Even when we have stayed at Francis House and chef Dean asks her what she wants for dinner, she only wants chicken nuggets.”
After chatting to the players Kaitlin said:
“It made me feel happy and full of emotion. It lifted my spirits high since school was grumpy that day. I enjoyed talking and joking about Christmas dinner and sprouts.”
When asked what inspires her about the players Kaitlin answered:
“Even though they get negative comments, they don’t listen to them. They just carry on with what they are doing.”
Andrea’s oldest daughter Isabel, 14, is extremely clinically vulnerable with complex medical needs, epilepsy and has daily seizures.
For all hospice families, the lockdown has been especially tough. To protect Isabel from Coronavirus, Andrea and the girls never left the safety of the house and garden for five months.
Andrea says she could not have coped without the help of Eden and Kaitlin to care for Isabel, helping to shower and dress her:
“I would have been lost without them stepping in and acting as Isabel’s carers. The safety of Isabel meant it was all about her and their needs took a back step. They didn’t mind not being able to see friends, they wanted to help me – ‘we are doing this for Isabel’ they said and understood we needed to keep her safe.
“That’s why this call with the players was so nice for Kaitlin to have something for herself. She adores the City women’s team, and it meant the world to her to see and speak to the players.
“Kaitlin and I have really bonded over football. It’s our thing that we do together and we both go to matches. It would be her dream to be a mascot one day.
“The Club and players didn’t have to do this – with COVID-19 and being unable to visit the hospice – they could have put it off for a year, but they did it and it really meant a lot.”
Throughout the pandemic Francis House has offered emergency respite care to children and young people, enabling their families to have a much-needed break.
“We are lucky Isabel has been able to come to Francis House for emergency respite. It helps me massively and gives my body, and back, some time to recover. It’s hard work lifting Isabel in and out of bed and into the shower. It has been so helpful to give me a break and spend precious time with Eden and Kaitlin.
Lifelong City fan Matthew Gilmore, 25, also spoke with players Rodri and Aymeric Laporte, who were impressed to hear of his skills in wheelchair football.
“I enjoyed speaking to the players and it was interesting to hear that manager Pep Guardiola speaks so many different languages, I wondered how he did it.
“My dad was always interested in football and I got into it when I started playing wheelchair football aged eleven. It’s great they took the time to call us.”
For more information on Francis House, please visit: www.francishouse.org.uk