Duchess of Cambridge delights families as she opens new £10m hospice
PUBLISHED: 17:44 15 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:44 15 November 2019
Families described meeting the Duchess of Cambridge as "a special memory they will never forget" as she officially opened a new £10 million children's hospice in Norfolk.
During her visit to the nook - East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) new facility at Framingham Earl, near Norwich - she described it as "wonderful".
Kate, who has been the royal patron of EACH since 2012, knelt down and lovingly engaged with children and parents.
On her arrival she was greeted by three-year-old Stanley Harrold, who has a rare chromosomal and life limiting syndrome, along with his parents Stefanie Partington and Joe Harrold, from Norwich, who gave the Duchess flowers.
Stanley has been using EACH's services since he was diagnosed when he was seven weeks old, and they say the hospice has been a great support.
Ms Partington said: "EACH have been fantastic in supporting us as a family. Stanley has all sorts of therapy, counselling and hopefully hydrotherapy now the Nook is open, which will help with his physiotherapy and for us to enjoy as a family.
"The Duchess is really down to earth and she made us both really feel at ease. It was a really special experience and today has been massively important."
The Duchess also spoke to Deborah and James Alford, from Thetford, parents to 10-year-old Isabella, who has been diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, and were originally told she would only live to the age of four or five.
But Isabella, who is 11 next month, has defied the odds and her parents have said that The nook's new facilities will help them to spend more time together as a family.
Mrs Alford said: "We have been using EACH's services since Isabella was two. Her health has deteriorated a little bit in the last 18 months and she needs to be lying on her side to help with her breathing. But having her on a bed like this, that is portable and she can lie on her side and all of these new facilities is just amazing.
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"We have made lots of lovely memories with Isabella in her lifetime and lots of fantastic adventures but in the last year we have struggled to do very much with her but meeting Kate today has made up for the last 12 months. It's a very special memory we will never forget."
The new hospice was built following a five-year public appeal to raise £10 million and it welcomed its first child to receive care in September this year.
At the launch appeal back in 2014, Kate met the now 38-year-old mother Leigh Smith, who had lost her baby daughter, Beatrice after she died from a rare heart condition after just 89 days.
Five years later, Ms Smith met the Duchess for the second time. She said: "It was lovely meeting her again she is such a kind and warm person.
"She came in and asked how are things and she said she was glad to see me again and asked how things are going. She meet my new daughter who is two and asked whether we are still using the services and I told her we are still using bereavement groups.
"We have been helped so much by EACH and it's going to help so many people for years to come. It's brilliant."
The new building, which contains more areas for clinical care and dedicated therapy rooms, will allow EACH to meet the increased demand for its service and the ever-changing and more complex needs of those it cares for.
Speaking before she unveiled a plaque at The nook she said: "EACH was one of the very first charities that I decided to become patron of after my marriage.
"Whilst a lot has changed since then, my commitment and support for this wonderful organisation and the work that you do has not."
She then invited a group of four children, who she called "my army of little helpers", to help her unveil the plaque.
The Duchess also thanked Graham Butland, retiring chief executive of EACH, for his 16 years of service.
He said: "When this is your last day on duty and to have someone like the royal highness to say a few words, I am extremely touched. But I'm more touched for my great team here because without their dedication and commitment to many of these families they would have little or no support and that is what we do here at EACH."