Some families only need Demelza’s support for a short time, but it can make a profound difference. Families like John, Jessica and their two-year-old son Ted.
Ted was only seven months old when Jessica took him to China to stay with her family (pictured). Her mum found a lump on his stomach and when tests came back suggesting there was something wrong with his liver, Jessica rushed him to the best children’s hospital in Beijing.
“It’s not like the NHS here,” Jessica explains. “There are lots of people and you have to queue up and wait all day to be called by the doctor.”
A specialist told her that her baby had hepatoblastoma, a type of liver cancer that affects children.
With John back at home in Sheerness, the couple had to decide whether Ted should stay in China for treatment or return to the UK. Their main concern was that if they did come back there would be a delay in getting the diagnosis confirmed.
John said: “Jess sent me the test results but of course they were in Chinese. I got an appointment with the GP to try to get things moving – it was a locum and amazingly he was Chinese so was able to translate them!”
Within a few days of flying home, Ted was at Great Ormond Street children’s hospital, where he underwent four courses of chemotherapy before having half his liver removed.
After more chemo, he came home to recover, but because his immune system was so weak the couple had to keep him away from other people. Being so isolated was hard, but then a health visitor offered to refer the family to Demelza Kent
for respite care.
“I’d passed by the hospice many times but I didn’t know what it was,” said Jessica. “Ted went there for day care, and that meant I didn’t have to worry about anything, I could just come away and relax. Ted had someone else to play with him, and had a great time.
“We also found out about Riding for the Disabled from Demelza and still go as a family every week.”
With Ted fully recovered from the gruelling chemotherapy and now just needing regular blood tests to check his condition, the family no longer needs respite care. But they are grateful for the support they received when they needed it most.
“Just knowing someone was there to give me a break was a great help,” said Jessica.
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