ONE of the first families to use Worcester’s Acorns Children’s Hospice has spoken of the incredible help and support they received as the charity celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Even in the darkest hour, when Keith and Jane Allchurch lost their beloved son Simon, staff from the hospice rushed to Worcestershire Royal Hospital in the early hours of the morning to provide support for the distraught couple.
Simon, from Wickhamford, near Evesham, was born with cerebral palsy and first started visiting the hospice in Selly Oak aged nine before attending the hospice on Bath Road, Worcester, when it opened in 2005.
Before that, the couple said they were pretty much on their own with Simon, who was wheelchair- bound and unable to do anything for himself, and their older daughter Donna, now 26.
It was a new social worker who began working with the family who put them in touch with Acorns.
Mrs Allchurch, aged 52, said: “When they first said he was coming to a hospice I thought, ‘Oh heck, it is going to be gloomy and about death’. But it wasn’t at all. It was the complete opposite, it was about living and enjoying life.”
Acorns Children’s Hospice supports life-limited children with respite, emergency and end-oflife care as well as a community team to support the family 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
At the hospice Simon was able to enjoy life to the fullest, making the most of all the facilities on offer, including his favourite – the hydrotherapy pool.
Mr Allchurch, aged 52, said: “When he was here it just made you feel at ease and we could rest assured and catch up with sleep and whatever.”
Manchester United fan Simon also made a big impression on the staff members, particularly the blonde-haired ones who he would blow kisses at.
“We called it blonde therapy and he used to get his dad in trouble,” his mum laughed.
“Everyone got to know him and when the hospice first opened he tried every emergency procedure and piece of machinery and they called him the mystery shopper.”
Mr Allchurch continued: “The thing about Simon was, whatever he had, if you could bottle it you would be rich because everybody he dealt with just fell in love with him.”
After being told by doctors that Simon would not live past his teenage years when he was first diagnosed at six months old, he defied the odds. He passed away aged 22 on Sunday, August 28, 2011, and at the families request his body was taken from the hospital to the hospice’s special bedroom.
“The staff were so respectful to Simon, even in death. They would come in and speak to him, which was nice because you didn’t feel like he was on his own,” Mrs Allchurch said.
Simon’s nephew Callum, five, has placed a stone in the memorial garden’s stream at the hospice on Bath Road which the family can visit at any time.
Mr Allchurch said: “The atmosphere in Acorns is brilliant.
Nothing is too much trouble and Simon was always so happy here.”
“It is like a big happy family,” Mrs Allchurch added.
The couple have shared their story in the hope that others will help with the charity’s aim of marking 25 years of their children’s hospice service by creating an online timeline of pictures, videos and blogs from families, staff and others.
There are currently 640-plus children cared for by the three 10-bed hospices at Selly Oak, Worcester and Walsall and the charity has supported 2,000 children and their families for free since it was established in 1988.
It will recount people’s experiences at the hospice, which first opened 25 years ago in Selly Oak – in was there where families like Simon’s would have gone before Worcester’s hospice was opened eight years ago.
People can get in touch with Acorns by visiting acorns.org.uk or e-mailing info@ acorns.org.uk.