Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall visited Helen & Douglas House on Tuesday 13th July to meet families supported by the hospice in the garden to learn how they have been coping with the pandemic.
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Her Royal Highness who became patron of Helen & Douglas House in 2007, was met by Vice Lord–Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Brian Buchan and saluted by his cadet Flight Sergeant Henry Southey. The Vice-Lord Lieutenant introduced Lord Blair of Boughton, who is chair of Trustees at Helen & Douglas House on arrival who then introduced Andrea Lambert, Clinical Director at the hospice, Andrea took Her Royal Highness around the garden to meet families and staff who work here.
During the visit, Her Royal Highness met five families in the garden, some of which are bereaved whose children have sadly died and other families were there with their children who visit the hospice for short supportive stays. They talked to Her Royal Highness about the challenges they have faced over the past 18 months during the pandemic and how Helen & Douglas House helped them through this difficult time.
It has been a really tough time for these families because many of them have been shielding and they have felt isolated because they have not had their normal support from carers or family members so many of them were exhausted caring for their child 24/7. But the hospice has remained open throughout the pandemic for these families, providing vital short supportive stays and emergency pain relief.
It has also been a worrying time where families needed reassurance and support from Helen & Douglas House more than ever, to try and keep their children safe, pain-free, and out of hospital. Helen & Douglas House has flexed their services to ensure the children have access to specialised care in their preferred place with many of them wanting more support at home.
The Duchess was shown paper butterflies on one of the trees in the garden by Jake and Zoe Lynch from Abingdon whose son Toby died aged 4 months in June 2020. These had messages from bereaved families written at the Butterfly Bimble memory walk at Blenheim Palace in May this year to remember their children who had died.
After The Duchess had met the families, Lord Blair of Boughton, gave a short speech thanking the Duchess for visiting on behalf everyone at the visit. The Duchess then said a few words, where Her Royal Highness praised our really special hospice dedicated to caring for children. She said ‘I just wanted to thank all of you – all the staff and all the volunteers and all the parents and families, because I know how hard it is for them, but somehow this place has a way of sort of uplifting you. I know how well people are looked after. I know it cares and it encapsulates the whole family, it’s not just the child. It’s the parents who are looked after as well too.’
Fatima Ali, from Maidenhead, presented the Duchess with a posey of flowers, gifted by Bloomin’ Chic Florists, just before Her Royal Highness left. Fatima has been coming to Helen & Douglas House since April 2016 for short supportive stays. Her sister, Sana, was also supported by Helen & Douglas House but sadly died last year.
Her Royal Highness last visited the hospice in May 2017. Annual Her Royal Highness invites children and their families supported by the charity, along with hospice staff to Clarence House to decorate the Christmas tree there. The last time this was undertaken was in 2019 which was the 10th year. Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge hosted a zoom call with Helen & Douglas House last year and a magical virtual Christmas Tree decorating event on zoom.