Mayor of Derry Brenda Stevenson, today helped Northern Ireland’s leading children’s heart charity launch two new family support initiatives; Counselling Services and a new ‘Family Heart Book’ at the Guildhall in Derry.
The book, which is the first of its kind, is published by the Children’s Heartbeat Trust and aims to help children who are born with a heart defect make sense of their condition and treatment in a simple and artistic way as they grow up.
Having a child with heart disease or facing the prospect of your child’s heart surgery can be an overwhelming experiences, and the new counselling initiative will offer a free and confidential service to heart families to help them cope with the anxiety and stress.
Support to help deliver these initiatives came from the family of Kerry Crocker who was born with a complex congenital heart defect and grew up in Derry. Sadly Kerry passed away in May 2013 aged 19. Since then Kerry’s family have been active fundraisers for the Children’s Heartbeat Trust and wanted to take these efforts a step further by helping other children with congenital heart defects understand their experiences and for their families to have enhanced support in place.
Speaking at the event Kerry’s mum Wendy said: “As Kerry grew up we saw how difficult it was for her to understand why she had to go to hospital and work through the different challenges of growing up a serious heart defect. A ‘Family Heart Book’ like this would have been a real help in talking through and discussing these issues, both for Kerry and her siblings. The new counselling service will also offer much needed professional support for heart families who have to face so many different issues and anxieties.
“Hopefully our experience can help other heart families and we are delighted that the Children’s Heartbeat Trust has developed these two new family support initiatives,” she added.
Speaking at the launch Sarah Quinlan, Chief Executive of Children’s Heartbeat Trust said: “We are really excited to launch the ‘Family Heart Book’ and Counselling Services for heart families across Northern Ireland. When children find out that they have a heart defect it can be very difficult for them to understand about their condition. By using creative ways of charting their own journey and mapping their progress, the book will help children cope with their condition and help reduce worry about treatment and hospital visits. This is the first book in a planned series of three to adapt to different challenges that arise a child grows up. It is a fun way to deal with a serious subject and we encourage any families affected by congenital heart disease to get their hands on one.”
In partnership with Carecall we are responding to a real need for our heart families to be able to access professional support through a counselling service to help all members of the families cope with the realities of having a child, brother or sister with a congenital heart defect.