No parent can imagine planning end-of-life care for their young child. For some, the unimaginable is their reality. As the Letcher family from Victoria, B.C., face the difficulties that come with their child’s terminal illness, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice is there to provide medical advice, guidance and the comfort of familiar surroundings.
Jordan and Kerena Letcher and their five sons – including their middle child Heston, who has Sanfilippo Syndrome (MPS IIIA), a regressive, terminal disease – were first introduced to Canuck Place about five years ago to access the pediatric palliative care provider’s medical respite services.
For several years, the medical respite services at Canuck Place enabled the whole family to have a break and enjoy some vacation time in Vancouver.
“At Canuck Place, we can go on outings to places like the Vancouver Aquarium and Science World with other families, plus the volunteers are always there to play Monopoly or shoot some hoops with the boys,” says Ms. Letcher.
While the Canuck Place medical team meets Heston’s complex care needs, the focus on the other children makes them feel valued, she adds.
“When you have a child with a terminal diagnosis, there are only so many hours of strength in a day. At Canuck Place, the daily chores like cooking and cleaning are looked after, and their medical care of Heston relieves some stress and gives us more strength for our other children.”
Heston is one of more than 765 children with life-threatening illnesses and families who receive care from Canuck Place through outpatient programs and at two provincial hospice locations at Vancouver and Abbotsford. In addition to medical respite and family support, Canuck Place also provides pain and symptom management, 24-hour phone consultation support and in-house clinical care, music, art and recreation therapy, education, grief, loss and bereavement counselling, as well as end-of-life care.
Heston’s disease trajectory is advancing, and the Letchters recognize how important Canuck Place will be in the near future.
“We’re not quite there yet, but we know when we look at end-of-life we can come here to a place that is familiar to us. That makes a huge difference; it’s not an unknown or strange place – we know everyone here and they know us,” says Ms. Letcher.
Canuck Place provides support to families like the Letchers at no cost. Donors contribute 60 per cent of the organization’s annual operating costs.
For more information, visit canuckplace.org..
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.