Good Morning Presenter and ellenor Patron, Charlotte Hawkins surprised ellenor respite carer, Vicki Read, at work in a young patient’s home in Gravesend on Tuesday 8 March – presenting her with a bunch of flowers and a ‘Health Star’ certificate from the ITV breakfast programme for her dedication to the charity, which supports families facing terminal illness.
Vicki is one of a team of respite carers at ellenor, who provide vital respite care into a child’s own home, so that the family can have a break – very often to catch up on sleep after many nights without rest or perhaps to spend time with another child.
But Vicki’s story doesn’t end there, as her two young sons – Sidney and Freddie - were cared for by the charity. They both died, aged three, from a rare genetic condition called Alpers Disease.
Sidney was deaf, almost blind, tube fed, suffered constant horrific seizures, had severe breathing difficulties, could not talk, walk, sit or smile.
“He suffered constant hospital admissions, numerous tests,” says Vicki. “To get him home, we needed massive help from the ellenor team and, with their help, we gave Sidney a quality of life.”
Aged three and now with a little, healthy, sister, Sidney was due to be an angel in his nursery nativity play – but he died that morning.
“We all needed counselling to get through this dreadful time and ellenor was there to support us,” says Vicki.
Two years later, Freddie was born.
“There were no tests to find out if my daughter or new son would be affected by the same terrible disease, only time would tell,” says Vicki. “Freddie fell ill at 14 weeks and our world collapsed around us once again - but ellenor was thereto support us.”
Freddie went to the same nursery as his big brother, turned three, and did get to be an angel in the nativity play. He died two months later.
“Without the support and friendship of all the ellenor team we, as a family, would never have been able to cope,” says Vicki. “We will be eternally grateful to them all.”
On the morning of Charlotte’s visit, Vicki was busy giving respite care at the home of 16-year-old ellenor patient, Cameron Edmonds. Cameron has Duchene Muscular Dystrophy and currently receives respite care and medical support from ellenor nurses who visit him in his family home. He also attends ellenor’s monthly Youth Club.
He and is mother, Lisa, were in on the surprise and, when Charlotte arrived, Cameron and Vicki were baking biscuits.
Cameron’s family says Vicki goes ‘above and beyond’ in her role and does amazing creative activities with Cameron during respite. She has built up a good relationship with the family and is there with a cup of tea and a smile when Lisa’s feeling down.
“Vicki’s story is endlessly inspiring – so I was thrilled to be able to surprise her and grateful to Cameron and Lisa for keeping the surprise so well,” says Charlotte. “The work which ellenor does providing support to families facing terminal illness is so vital and I am proud to be a Patron for the charity.”