Rockinghorse Children's Charity

Rockinghorse Children's Charity

The Rockinghorse Children's Charity is the fundraising arm of the Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital in Brighton. Wallace & Gromit's Children's Charity provided Rockinghorse with a grant towards funding a family counsellor in the High Dependency Unit, a service providing emotional support to parents with a child requiring long term hospital care. Benjamin's mum Zoe explains how important counselling is to her and the difference it has made to her family. 

“Benjamin (Benji) was born in February 2011 at only 34 weeks. He weighed just 3lbs and doctors diagnosed him with Downs Syndrome and Tracheoesophageal Fistula Oesophageal Atresia (TOF-OA). This complex condition is where the oesophagus is attached to the windpipe and lungs instead of to the stomach.

At just one day old, Benji had his first operation to correct the problem. Unfortunately he had severe scarring in his airway needed a Tracheostomy, an operation to open a direct airway into his windpipe. Several operations later, Benji was transferred to the High Dependency Unit (HDU) at the Alex.

Just before Benji's first Christmas, his trachea tube became detached and he stopped breathing. Doctors realised Benji was going to need nurse-led, medical care 24 hours a day, even when he would eventually be allowed home.

During this time my husband Simon and I found it hard to stay positive. We felt we were on a very long and emotional rollercoaster of worry and stress and we simply wanted to bring Benji home to be together as a family, with his big sister Ivy (aged 4). Then we met the parent counsellor at the Alex and things immediately felt a lot better.

Parent counselling for those with children treated on HDU is a crucial service because being able to talk to someone without worrying about they are going to think or say, or worrying whether they understand what you are trying to say, is just really valuable. Simon and I have benefitted enormously from speaking with the HDU counsellor confidentially.  Although you do talk to other parents on HDU, you are all a bit fragile, you all feel like bursting into tears. The counsellor is there to speak to honestly and openly, without fear of upsetting anyone.

Speaking openly and honestly to the counsellor has helped me to function and I cannot emphasise how important this service is, to ensure parents are looked after and families can stay together."