Valley Friends March report

From Joan Steel
Helen & Douglas House was the subject of the talk given by our speaker, Sue Barns at our March meeting.

Helen & Douglas House is a local charity, founded in 1982 on an idea of Sister Francis Dominica, whose friend’s child had a brain operation and needed constant support. Sister Francis saw the toll it took on the family and how they benefitted from her help. The first hospice ever for sick and dying children is based in Oxford and has now become two departments; Helen House is for children aged 0 – 16 years and Douglas House is for young people from16 – 25 years. Their charity shops are found on the main streets of most towns local to Oxford.

Helen & Douglas House is a fun and vibrant place with staff always there whenever needed. It has beautiful gardens with colourful toys and is suitable for children in wheelchairs. There is a tree house on the ground and a swing that takes wheelchairs. Families are always very welcome to come and play with patients and can stay as there are four family flats. When children come for respite care their families can rest and have a holiday – the best they can have all together.

There is one-to-one care from the strong medical team who deal with pain and general pain management. There are facilities for arts and crafts, a magic carpet that can be used for all sorts of games and many ways are found to give the patients what they would like, such as creating a beach in the garden with imported sand, plus buckets and spades, deck chairs, sound of the sea recordings and a real donkey! There is a sensory room with music therapy, lovely lights, a water bed that moves to music, a jacuzzi with hoists to lower children in.

Douglas House is more like an hotel; it provides many comforts, entertainments and interests that young adults enjoy. Also they go shopping and to the cinema and have many chances to socialise. The Elephant Club takes the patients on trips, helping to relieve worry and deal with anxiety.

Respite care is carefully planned, giving 28 days per year to families. These times give them happy memories to comfort them after their child’s death. End of life care is not limited. It takes place in a special, calming, lovely little room where loved ones can stay with the patient and experts are available to handle difficult cases.

Sue explained how funds are raised through their charity shops, also from group and individual donations, fun runs, etc. Many volunteers are needed to support the wonderful work of the hospice – all information is available at the local hospice shops.

Sue was warmly thanked by Elizabeth for her very interesting and inspirational talk. Our next meeting is on 10th April when the subject is ‘Restoration of Mary Anne Disraeli’s Garden’. All welcome.