A brother and sister who swim together at a children’s hospice special heated hydrotherapy pool have shared their experiences to celebrate National Siblings Day.
Tess Sullivan, 16, was diagnosed with Alexander Disease when she was three years old – a rare condition that can include developmental delays, difficulty speaking, and loss of motor control.
Tess and her younger brother Max, 14, visit Derian House in Chorley regularly for family cinema time and relaxing sessions in the pool. It’s a chance to have fun and make memories together.
As the beginning of this week marked National Siblings Day (Monday 10 April), the Chorley hospice is shining a light on the brother and sister, from Rossendale, who have been visiting Derian House for 11 years.
Mum, Helen, who works as a Head Teacher at a primary school in Rossendale, said: “It can be difficult to find things that Tess and her younger brother Max can do together, but Derian House’s facilities mean that they can just be themselves – two teenagers.
“The cinema is great – Max loves it because we can watch our favourite films together as a family. Standard cinemas just aren’t accessible. At Derian, we can stop the film and can make sure Tess has anything and everything she needs.
“Tess loves using the hydrotherapy pool. There’s a noise she makes when she goes in that I just know means she’s relaxed. Max can interact with Tess in the pool too – it’s a safe and fully accessible place where they can have fun together.
“We say ‘we’re ready for a Derian day’ – that’s what we call it when we visit. Derian House is a haven. It’s a genuinely happy place and we are so grateful that it is there for our family.”
Almost 200 siblings of seriously ill children were cared for at Derian House Children’s Hospice last year – with support ranging from one-to-one or group sessions, to fun activities and days out.
Derian House supports siblings of its children and young people in a number of ways including days out, support groups, counselling, and ‘Treasure Days’ for bereaved siblings to share memories and celebrate the lives of their loved ones.
Andrea Fontaine-Smith, sibling support worker at Derian House, said: “Having a seriously ill brother or sister can have an impact on a sibling’s own emotional wellbeing, and it can also feel very isolating. Being able to give our siblings a safe space to express their feelings and an opportunity to meet other young people with similar experiences is a wonderful thing. Without realising, our siblings are often an essential part of keeping family life running, so it is well deserved that they are celebrated!
“Siblings are a huge part of the care we provide for families at the hospice as we realise the challenges they can face. Whether trying to share time with parents, helping out more around the home, or worrying about their brother or sister’s health and wellbeing.”
Derian House, based in Chorley, Lancashire, cares for more than 400 babies, children, young people and their families from across the North West and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It will cost £6 million to run services at Derian House in 2023, and so the charity relies on the generosity of its supporters for 70p in every £1.