Bear Cottage is more than a hospice, it's my family
"In May 2020 we came to stay at Bear Cottage for the first time. Being a Children's Hospice, we had no idea what to expect. Our beautiful girl, Bobbi, had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer just six months prior to our visit. As soon as we entered Bear Cottage, we were greeted by the most wonderful and welcoming staff who instantly made us feel safe and at home. Since May, we have spent a collective time of two months at Bear Cottage, for both respite visits and now end of life care.
In this time, we have experienced more support than we could ever have imagined. This place has become our home away from home and every staff member like our family.
Bear Cottage allowed Bobbi to connect with other kids, after being isolated from all other children in hospital for months. I can't explain her excitement when she would meet children with the same special lines and tubes as her. She felt so included by the other children and formed incredible bonds with them during our stays. Seeing her face light up as she played with the other children was so heart-warming for us.
As well as Bobbi, we formed connections with the other parents. Raising a child with a terminal illness can be an extremely isolating experience; no one we know has gone through this and no one knows what to say. Being around other families going through similar things was so helpful and we have made friendships that will last a lifetime.
Bear Cottage has allowed us to keep being Bobbi's parents and siblings instead of having to think and act like her medical team.
It's taken the pressure off us when it comes to all things medical and made it possible to dedicate all our time and energy into giving her as much love and affection as we possibly can.
As the carer of a terminally ill child, you are constantly stressing about medications and trying to battle the management of new symptoms but because of Bear Cottage, we no longer have to take control of that. In saying that though, the Bear Cottage team of doctors and nurses recognise that each family knows best for their child and will always include us in all decisions and make sure that the care is led by the direction of the family.
There is no stressing about meal times and groceries because at Bear Cottage our meals are all prepared with love by the amazing chefs and volunteers. Any parent will recognise the relief of having someone cook for you daily, but to those whose children are critically ill, it makes such a huge impact. Each day we are nourished and able to enjoy the most beautiful meals, no matter how chaotic our day has been. After months of living on hospital food and takeout, it is so incredible to sit down together each meal and eat something that tastes just as good, if not better, than a home-cooked meal.
As a family, we have been so supported by everyone here, from nurses checking in to see how we are each day and offering us a hot cup of coffee when we need it, to volunteers coming in and giving us haircuts and massages! The social workers at Bear Cottage have been incredible in guiding us through these difficult times and making sure that we are as supported as possible.
Not only is Bobbi looked after by her nurses and doctors, but she is also always entertained. Watching her sing and dance with the music therapist to her favourite songs or cover herself in paint with the art therapist is such a delight. The play therapists and physical therapists are always around, encouraging the most play possible and making sure she is enjoying every second of her time. I can't forget to mention Bobbi's favourite - Beau the therapy dog! Beau is such a special addition to the team at Bear Cottage, offering Bobbi and the other children so much comfort when they need it most. He is so patient and gentle with Bobbi and loves to lay by her side in bed when she is having a bad day.
Bear Cottage helped us give Bobbi the medical attention she needs while also allowing us to make as many amazing memories as we possibly can with her. Bear Cottage isn't a place where children come to die - it is a place for children to live as much as they can."
Ashleigh Butler, Bobbi's sister