The final episode of BBC2's Chaplains: Angels of Mersey focused on the support of Alder Hey’s chaplains for bereaved parents and families.
If you have been affected by the programme and need to talk to someone about the death of a child, you can talk to a trained volunteer by contacting the Child Death Helpline on 0800 282 986 .
The Child Death Helpline is a national, Freephone Helpline open every evening Monday to Sunday 7pm - 10pm, Monday - Friday mornings 10am - 1pm and Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons 1pm - 4pm. Staffed by trained bereaved parents, the Helpline is for parents and indeed anybody affected by the death of a child of any age including adults, under any circumstances. The Child Death Helpline is a partnership between Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust (GOSH). All volunteers are trained, supervised and supported by professional teams within Alder Hey and GOSH.
Support is also available from the Alder Centre at Alder Hey by contacting 0151 252 5391. The Alder Centre is a unique, national centre of excellence providing ‘care and education for anyone affected by the death of a child’.
Missed an episode of Chaplains: Angels of Mersey? You can now catch up with the programme on BBC iPlayer .
Alder Hey’s Spiritual Care Team featured in almost every episode of the BBC2 series which focused on chaplains in organisations across Merseyside. Along with Alder Hey, the programme has taken a closer look at the work of chaplains at Liverpool University, Everton Football Club, the Liverpool Fire Service and out on the streets of Liverpool.
Featured left with colleague Caroline Ferguson and Rob Cowling from BBC, Reverend Dave Williams, Lead Chaplain at Alder Hey explains why spiritual care is so important.
He says:“In a world, and particularly in a paediatric hospital environment, where there is so much stress with which to cope, I believe that the need for spiritual care is now more important than ever. There is an obvious need for spiritual care for our patients and for patients’ families and carers, for they can find themselves very suddenly under the most enormous, unimaginable stress and pressure.
“The concern of having a seriously ill child is something that most of us will, thankfully, not have experienced. Many of us, however, do experience the effect of families’ stress, of their concerns, sadness and sometimes grief, and that’s why spiritual care for staff in a hospital like this is also so important. It’s not just about religion and church. It’s about all of us looking after ourselves and caring for each other.”
The series has followed Alder Hey’s chaplains as they support parents and families through their journey at Alder Hey. It was this type of support that inspired Caroline Ferguson to become one of Alder Hey’s catholic chaplains.
Caroline explains: “As Patient Services Manager in the mid 90’s, I was responsible for the night staff, bed management, the nurse bank, student nurses, parent’s accommodation, bereavement care, fire alarms cardiac arrests, out of hours cover and also the Chaplaincy Team.
“In August 2000 my husband died suddenly and four months later my mother died suddenly. Following the loss of my husband I turned to the Chaplaincy Team at Alder Hey for support and they were also there for me when my mother died. The love and support that I received from the Chaplaincy Team was superb and ongoing. I was still their line manager but that didn't matter. I started asking them about their faith. At the suggestion of the catholic priest, I started going to the weekly Saturday Mass, held in the chapel at Alder Hey. I originally went to be polite as he had been so kind to me and was always there for me, as were the other two chaplains.
“I felt that I wanted to become a Catholic and I also felt drawn to consider the possibility of becoming a chaplain, preferably at Alder Hey. After much prayer, I reduced my hours and began my training.”
Caroline and Dave have both met many families at Alder Hey who have valued their support. One parent featured in the series was Kirsty Harris, whose son Carson has had a combination of complex problems and operations since he was born. Until very recently, Kirsty had been living at Alder Hey for over two years while Carson received treatment.
Kirsty said:”I met Caroline during her ward rounds and after a few conversations, I went to see her in the Chapel. She arranged for Carson’s christening and pulled out all the stops to make it how we wanted – she didn’t even mind that he had about 15 godparents!
“It’s been difficult for me since Carson was born as I have had to stay in the hospital and try to split myself between Alder Hey and my other children. Caroline has been a great support to me and the thing that stood out about her is that she is not medical. The staff on the wards have been great looking after Carson but I can speak to Caroline as a friend and talk about normal, day to day stuff. She’s always there anytime I need her.”
Dave concludes: “We value being on the front line of ministry, regularly meeting with families who have no real background in Church as such, but who find themselves in desperate situations where their spiritual needs come to the fore, possibly for the first time in their lives. It is a privilege to walk that dark walk with people in these sad and stressful times, and to try to guide them into some sort of understanding that they are not alone in their struggle.
“I hope that the programme will give people outside, and perhaps even inside, the hospital an understanding of what spiritual care is really about. I hope also that it will help people to realise that we who are involved in spiritual care do not have all the answers. What we do have is a belief that, even in the darkest and most difficult times of our lives, we are not ever on our own, because God does exist, and he does care, albeit sometimes despite appearances.”