'Angels in uniform' at Acorns Hospice help to make magical Christmas memories

A mother has shared the story of how ‘shining stars’ at Acorns Children’s Hospice helped to make her Christmas dream come true.

Charlotte Cleary with her daughter Aimee
Charlotte Cleary with her daughter Aimee

Charlotte Cleary, from near Walsall, longed for her daughter Aimee, nine, to be able to enjoy a Christmas dinner with her family.

What might seem a simple wish for most felt almost impossible for Aimee, who had been tube fed her whole life.

But thanks to the help at Acorns, Charlotte’s dream turned to reality, giving her a “magical memory that every parent should have”.

Charlotte, 32, said: “You expect nurses to care but the staff at Acorns go above and beyond.

“As well as making sure Aimee is happy and comfortable, they try to give her the same experiences that every other child has. They make things that seem impossible possible and this is true even more so at Christmas.

“My Christmas dream was that Aimee could enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner, but it was something I never thought would happen because she had been tube fed her whole life.”

Aimee, nine, has been supported by Acorns for seven years

The staff at Acorns knew Charlotte’s wishes and spent time with Aimee helping her and using special techniques to gradually get her used to eating solid food.

And Christmas Day 2018 was a day Charlotte would never forget.

She said: “I remember I just sat at the table crying into my stuffing as Aimee had her first taste of Christmas dinner.

“They had made my wish come true and they had created a wonderful memory that any parent should have.”

Acorns Children’s Hospice, which is based in Walsall, is dedicated to supporting families with life limited and life threatened children and its highly trained staff understand the importance of helping families create lasting, precious memories.

Aimee enjoying her Christmas dinner in 2018 - thanks to Acorns Children's Hospice

This Christmas, Acorns has launched its Shining Stars Appeal, an appeal which aims to highlight the work of all the nurses, family team workers, physiotherapists, health care assistants and volunteers that make up the charity’s care team.

For the families like Charlotte’s who rely on Acorns, the charity is asking people to give a gift this Christmas towards the ‘shining stars’ who provide the charity’s lifeline care and support.

Cheslyn Hay resident Charlotte says these remarkable men and women are “angels in uniform” and that she and Aimee would be “lost without them”.

Charlotte added: “Christmas for me is about making memories with my daughter. Seeing her face light up makes my heart glow.

“For children like Aimee you never know if that Christmas is going to be the last one. The staff at Acorns understand this and do whatever they can to make every moment a magical one.”

At just five days old tiny Aimee was diagnosed with meningitis, which left her fighting for her life. Against all the odds she fought through, but a lack of oxygen left her with brain damage.

Aimee with nurse Manda at Acorns in Walsall

This means Aimee needs round the clock care, is unable to walk or talk and is tube fed. The family have been using Acorns in the Black Country, based in Walsall, for the last seven years.

Charlotte said: “When Aimee was born an immense feeling of love overwhelmed me – she was perfect. When she was five days old however, she wasn’t settling. I had this feeling that something was wrong.

“When the midwife came over, Aimee went all floppy, so we phoned an ambulance.

“They did a heel prick test and the doctor said they needed to do a lumbar puncture – I had no idea what that was. The next thing I remember was Aimee screaming. Panic set in. They told me that her spinal fluid was cloudy, and they knew straight away that she had meningitis.”

Charlotte’s daughter was rushed to New Cross Hospital, in Wolverhampton, and taken immediately to the high dependency unit, where medical staff told the new mother her daughter had just a five per cent chance of survival over the next 24 hours.

She said: “Everything became a blur. It felt like my whole world was crumbling around me. Luckily, she fought through.

“But after four weeks in hospital an ultrasound revealed that the meningitis had permanently damaged Aimee’s brain. I could see from six months old that there were problems.

“I felt really left out and alone. Then I discovered Acorns and people who understood. This year has been tough for us, like it has been for many people. At one point I wasn’t sure if I could cope. But Acorns were there. Not only did they bring around care packages for us, but they were there on the phone checking in on us. They constantly watched over us, making sure we were safe and well.”

And when Charlotte’s second daughter, Millie, arrived seven weeks early in November, Acorns was there.

Charlotte said: “When I went into premature labour at 33 weeks it was a massive shock.

“No-one expected it to happen. Apart from worrying about the baby and myself, my next thought was Aimee – who was going to look after her?

“Acorns were like my superheroes. They came to my rescue and were able to have Aimee pretty much straight away. It was such a blessing, because it took all that pressure away.

“I had to have a c-section, so caring for Aimee would have been impossible. Knowing Aimee was safe and in amazing hands at Acorns, meant I could focus on the baby and getting better. I’ll be forever grateful.”

To make a donation to Acorns’ Shining Stars Appeal, visit acorns.org.uk/starsappeal.

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