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Face 2 Face

“Hello. My name is Vicky and I run the Face 2 Face service at Alder Hey. I am a mother of 3 children and it was my journey with my eldest child that has brought me to be working here today and offering this service.

When I was pregnant with my first child I was very excited, maybe she would be athletic like me, maybe she would do ballet, I could not wait to meet her. Vicky Harris, ScopeHer birth was very difficult not what I had planned, then we were told she was disabled and in time would use a wheelchair. As you can imagine this came as a great shock, this was not part of my great plan, my life changed in a heartbeat. We accessed our local hospital until she was 9 and then discovered Alder Hey.

As a family we accessed many clinics, our daughter had most of her surgery here and we stayed at the wonderful Ronald McDonald House so we could be close to her. The Doctors and Consultants were understanding and kind, gifted and at times our lifeline to supporting her needs. We met lovely nurses who all cared for our child, K3 was a place we at times regularly frequented. They offered care, respect, laughter and a very special nurse called Caroline Sanders who to this day is a wonderful human being who will always hold a place in my heart.

At times I struggled having to bring my child in, I knew she needed the surgery but it was tough watching her in pain, letting her go into theatre and trusting them to take care of her as I would. She went through so much, but every decision we made was out of love for our child. Emotionally I struggled,I had no-one to tell how difficult this had become, no-one who understood how I felt. I smiled and gave nothing away. I wanted people to think I could cope, because that is what people expect. People have said to me many times over the years that only people who can cope have children with additional needs, I am afraid that is not always true.

During my many years here as a parent I was at times desperate for help, I hit so many lows and hoped one day someone would notice. Time and time again I painted on the smile but under the happy exterior I was crying wanting someone to make everything better. I felt guilty, watching my child struggle, seeing her crying in pain and not being able to do anything to change this situation. Struggling when people stared at her and making their judgements.

9 years ago I went to work for the charity Scope, to run the Face 2 Face service in Liverpool. I have met many parents/carers and families just like mine, trying their best and at times struggling to cope with the emotional rollercoaster we go on. I really wanted the service to be available at Alder Hey and met with many professionals from within the Trust over a 2 year period.

Then the magical day came that I only had dared dream of and it was agreed the Research Team would be happy to research what difference this service does make to parents/carers accessing Alder Hey’s services, we secured the funding through Charitable Funds from within the Trust. I was overjoyed, but then my beautiful grandson who was born with Cerebral Palsy and Brain Damage passed away weeks before I was due to start this service.

I was devastated but even in my grief I knew I had to be very committed to running this service and more importantly reaching those families like mine who were smiling on the outside but inside struggling to make sense of all their feelings.

Today two years later we have 12 trained Befrienders, all parents of children with additional needs supporting parents who just like me need someone to talk to who understands how it feels, to offer empathy and compassion. To know you are not alone, what your feeling is ok as others have felt the same, to know we will not judge you.

I am very proud to be offering this service at Alder Hey today, a hospital who took great care of my child and supported her at her most vulnerable times. I will always be very grateful to them.”

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