A bereaved mum is lacing up her walking boots to raise funds and show gratitude for the invaluable support she received from East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
Kerry Ball is being joined by sister Amanda for the charity’s Suffolk Pier 2 Pier event – a 16-mile trek from Lowestoft to Southwold, in May.
She is taking on the challenge as a way of saying thanks for the care and support her family received following the death of baby Finley, in 2012.
After a normal pregnancy, he was born with shoulder dystocia, which occurs when a baby’s anterior shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone. It prevents the baby from continuing through the birth canal.
Finley was resuscitated after birth, but left severely brain damaged, blind, possibly deaf and had cerebral palsy. He was also having seizures.
“It was at that point (EACH counsellor) Michelle Parkins came to see me in hospital and told me about The Treehouse,” said Kerry.
“Her support and counselling was an absolute godsend and I don’t know how I’d have got through some days without her.
“My world had been turned upside down but, initially, I didn’t want to see the hospice. I thought ‘why would I want to do that – surely everything will be fine’.
“However, that was never going to be the case and I’m so glad I followed her advice.
“In the days that followed, we did all kinds of memory-making at the hospice, including hand and footprints and taking special photos.
“It was the little touches that made the biggest difference, like seeing they had handmade Finley a name sign for the bedroom door. It was so personal and made it feel like his own nursery.
“The care team found us a pram, so we could take him for walks around the garden, and that was something we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
“We also have lovely memories of music therapy sessions with (therapist) Ray (Travasso).
“Ray made it so special and we still have recordings where you can hear Finley in the background. It’s beautiful.”
Finley lived for 15 days and spent just over a week receiving end of life care at The Treehouse.
“Nothing was too much trouble, from washing our clothes to cooking us meals,” said Kerry.
“It was so important not having to worry about those types of things and I’ve never eaten so well in my life!
“Everyone went above and beyond to ensure we could spend every precious moment with Finley.
“It was also lovely that our family were able to come and visit, although we always had space and privacy when we needed it.
“I can’t imagine that period of time without EACH.
“The hospital was obviously such a clinical environment and I needed to ask permission before picking Finley up.
“I understood why, of course, but he felt more like my baby at The Treehouse.
“We also got help organising Finley’s funeral. I’d never organised any funeral before, let alone one for my baby son, so that support was invaluable.”
Kerry’s eldest son, Caleb, 14 now but just three at the time, has received counselling and enjoys taking part in sibling activities organised by EACH.
The Ball family are regulars at events like the recent Winter Wonderland.
“It was a long while ago now and sometimes I wonder if I should still go to these things,” said Kerry.
“However, I just don’t feel ready to make that decision. The Treehouse is such a special place to me – it makes me thoughtful and reflective and it’s somewhere I always feel a very close connection to Finley.
“That’s why I’m excited to be showing my support at the Suffolk Pier 2 Pier.
“I did a 16-mile walk for EACH a couple of years ago, along the Sussex coastline at Eastbourne.
“That one was very hilly, so I’m hoping the coastline here is a bit flatter.”
To show your support and sponsor Kerry, head here.
The Suffolk Pier 2 Pier is among seven major events on the EACH events calendar for 2024.
New highlights include a Lego Walk and an eagerly-anticipated Newmarket Bubble Rush.