Tag Archives: carol service

Giving something back

23567358210_2327dd548d_mAs we counted down the days to Christmas within the confines of GOSH last year, one of the seasonal highlights for both M and me was the carol-singers that we encountered during our stay. Hearing the gentle strains of familiar carols outside the main entrance, within the beautiful chapel and along the hospital corridors helped us feel a part of the excitement building in the outside world, even though M was ward-bound for so much of the time. I was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Carols by Candlelight service at St. George’s Holborn, a church just across the road from the hospital itself 23104290053_5ffd34741a_zand M, Mike and I had great fun another evening joining the choir from All Souls Church, Langham Place as they sang their way around GOSH, serenading patients with their cheerful Christmas singing.

Knowing how much those experiences lifted our spirits during a difficult and emotional time away from home, I leapt at an opportunity this year to give a little back. One of the choirs I sing with was invited to spend an afternoon singing carols and Christmas songs at a regional Children’s Hospice, whilst one of the local football teams delivered presents and spent time talking to current patients and their families. It had been an occasion that I’d been hoping to take part in last year, so as soon as I heard we were invited back this year, I knew that I just had to be a part of it if at all possible.

img_13021Yesterday was that day and what a truly magical experience it was. A small group of just 9 of us gathered and spent the afternoon singing carols and Christmas songs to the children and their families, who are so dependent on this Hospice to provide some precious moments of respite during the year. I took the opportunity during our visit to speak to staff members, parents and even some of the children themselves and gleaned just a small insight into how important this Hospice is to them all. There were no tears yesterday; just a celebration of the individuals gathered in those rooms and an opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime. When favourite songs were requested, we gladly sang them to bring a little extra cheer to what was already an amazing party. I gently persuaded – ok, 15578155_10154311119488790_2228089488536286007_operhaps, more honestly, I coerced with a cheerful smile and a little Christmas spirit – some of the footballers to join us for a rousing rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, which ended with friends, family and staff also singing along and sharing in the joy of that moment.

We received thanks for our attendance again this year, but the truth is that we received from the experience far more than we gave. It was a huge honour to be able to be even a small part of a fantastic event and, for me, a real opportunity to give something back to families that are living through a reality that reminded me just how lucky our family truly is. Not everybody can sing; not everybody will be able to offer practical help, but if you can find a way to #givesomethingback this Christmas season and beyond, please do.

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School – the hospital way

One of my favourite memories of our pre-admission waiting time is when I asked M to tell my Mum what was going to happen once he was in hospital.  I had, of course, expected him to explain, in depth, all he knew about the NG-tube and the pellet study, but roared with laughter when he said, in a small voice lacking in any great enthusiasm, “…hospital school…”

indexThe first few days of our stay were dominated by the administration of  the huge amounts of powerful laxatives and M felt so unwell that he refused to move from his bed.  By the end of that first Sunday, however, the tedium of not being allowed off hospital premises had taken its toll and he was keen to head off to school on Monday morning.  The hospital school accepts that the children may not be able to attend a “full” day there and is happy for any child to be there for as long as they are able to manage.  Each day is split into 2 sessions:  10am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 3.30pm.  They cover the basics of maths, literacy and science, but also throw in other subjects such as IT, art and even PE.

indexI discussed with the teacher there all of M’s needs concerning his dyspraxia and dyslexia and we talked about all he’d been learning so far at his home school.  He was one of just 4 children in the Key Stage 2 group during his admission and was able to have a huge amount of one-to-one teaching as there were 4 teachers able to work with the group.  They tackled his lack of enthusiasm for literacy by signing him on to the “Bug Club“, an on-line learning resource which tested his reading comprehension skills.  Each time he was able to read a new passage and answer the questions correctly about what he had read, he received a virtual sticker and was moved on to the next text.  He was set up with his own username and password to monitor the development he was making in class and what’s even better is that they have given us all the details needed for continuing with it at home.

M's amazing chocolate Christmas creation

M’s amazing chocolate Christmas creation

Every morning, M was keen to get up, get ready and get down to the classroom for the start of the school day.  I have never seen him so keen to arrive at school and start working! He had a busy week there and he enjoyed every single moment of it.  From History with the Victoria and Albert Museum to Cookery with the Executive Head Chef of the Hilton Hotel, it was a school week unlike any other.  He even took part in the school’s carol concert in the GOSH chapel, where he read part of the Christmas story.  It proved to be a great distraction from everything else that was going on medically and an amazing opportunity for those children who have to stay in hospital.