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Helping families face ultimate pain

Original article from The Advertiser – Wednesday, 5 Jun 2019 – Page 15

AN Australia-first program at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital will help families dealing with the heartbreak of their child being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

The Hospital Research Foundation will fund the Volunteer and Peer Mentor Program which will run from the WCH’s Paediatric Palliative Care Unit. Unit head Sara Fleming said there was a huge need for a program which provides support for families of children in palliative care.

“Most paediatric palliative care is in the home and there is so much support that a whole community needs when a child is dying,” Ms Fleming said.

“Parents and siblings are not only dealing with their child’s poor health and outlook, but their traditional network of friends, schools and workplaces are often unsure how to tackle such a sad and sensitive issue. Trained, professionally supported volunteers and peer mentors can help families in this difficult, long and often isolating journey.” Ella Stratton, of Henley Beach, will act as a peer mentor. She lost son Hunter a month before his 12th birthday in 2014, having struggled with health problems since he was a baby. “It is such an isolating and lonely time and often you don’t feel like you can talk to family and friends about nitty-gritty stuff of having a child so sick and passing away,” she said. “A coffee and a cry with someone who really understood helped me enormously.”

“Palliative care is not just the last couple of days or a week – it can be years, and it is a delicate, difficult time. It is about living well, as well as dying.”

Mrs Stratton, who with husband Jarrod also has sons Tex, 13, and Oakley, 10, found great solace in a friend from playgroup who had lost a child. She wants to offer similar support to families dealing with the grief of a terminal diagnosis.

Funding comes from donors and money raised in the Hospital Research Home Lottery.

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