Duchess of Cambridge ‘blown away’ by Norwich family’s bravery during visit to children’s hospice
- Credit: PA
The Duchess of Cambridge said she was “blown away” by the bravery of a family of a six-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with a brain tumour as she planted a sensory garden at a children’s hospice.
Kate officially opened the nook in Framingham Earl on the outskirts of Norwich last November, a new £10m facility for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH), for which the Duchess is a royal patron.
She returned to the centre on Thursday, June 25 to mark the end of Children’s Hospice Week by meeting staff to thank them for their hard work.
Armed with plants bought during a visit to Fakenham Garden Centre a few days earlier, the Duchess also worked alongside staff, an EACH volunteer gardener and two families to create a garden containing sensory plants such as lavender, bay and rosemary, as well as strawberry plants, herbs, geraniums and hydrangeas.
The Duchess met the Pope-Saunders family from Jex Road in Norwich, who were introduced to EACH after their six-year-old son Sonny was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a rare and aggressive brain tumour.
Sonny was diagnosed in February, days after his sixth birthday, and began radiotherapy at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. He was given between six and 10 months to live.
The Duchess taught Sonny, his sister Star, 11, and brother Hudson, eight, how to loosen plants from their pots to replant them.
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She told them Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis were having a sunflower-growing competition, and gave each child sunflower seeds. The sunflower has been adopted as the emblem of hospice care.
The Duchess, who has been living at Anmer Hall in west Norfolk during lockdown, told the family: “I’m always so blown away by families like yours, particularly having to go through all of this in lockdown. You show such resilience and bravery. You’re such an inspiration to us all.
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“More people in the country should meet families like you, there’s a huge amount of change for you all to take on and you have coped fantastically.”
EACH helped Sonny’s parents Kelly and Jordan Pope-Saunders create a symptom management plan to spend as much time together as possible.
A final wish to visit Disneyland Paris was planned for April 20 but had to be rebooked for July 20 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
His mum hopes Sonny will still be in a condition to go, but said the family will plan something “a bit closer to home” if not.
The Duchess of Cambridge said: “This Children’s Hospice Week, I’d like to thank the amazing staff for all the work that you do in children’s hospices around the UK. The care and the nurture that you provide children and families in the most unimaginable circumstances is just awe inspiring.
“I’d also like to pay tribute to all those families out there who are caring for and looking after a child with a life-limiting illness. You do the most extraordinary job and I know it’s particularly hard at the moment so my thoughts go out to you all.”
Mrs Pope-Saunders said after the visit: “She said they are having a sunflower-growing competition and Louis is winning, much to George’s annoyance.
“It was so nice to see her - and in such a lovely dress too - getting stuck in.”
EACH acting chief executive Tracy Rennie said: “We’re privileged to have the continued support of the Duchess.
“We know the families we support have been and continue to go through particularly tough times at the moment, and at EACH we’ve had to rapidly adapt how we deliver care and support, while managing a considerable hit to our funding, so the Duchess’ support is a very welcome and much appreciated boost.”
Since 2012, she been royal patron of EACH, which operates across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire to care for children with life-threatening conditions and provide support to their families.
Heartbreak over Disneyland dream
Sonny’s mother said shielding during Covid-19 had not been too difficult, but that she felt valuable time to make memories with her son was being lost.
“Sonny’s been fine at home. He can’t walk or talk very well at the moment, but he’s happy and nothing phases him. Even when he was poorly and couldn’t eat for a little while, he didn’t moan. He never has done through all of this. He’s a trooper,” she said.
The family have enjoyed a day out to Banham Zoo thanks to EACH’s help.
But she said it was devastating to not be able to go to Disneyland Paris.
“That was just heartbreaking when we couldn’t take him and we had to tell him,” she said.
“He just said ‘don’t worry, I’ll just go to Hemsby when it’s open’. That’s how cool and chilled he is.”