Fay’s story

Mum Fay Tarrant has hailed the “incredible” support her and her family receive from East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).

Ten-year-old daughter Gracie-Leigh has a number of complex, life-limiting health conditions, mainly involving her heart and lungs. Visits to The Treehouse hospice, in Ipswich, therefore provide much-needed and well-earned respite for the mum of five, who is engaged to Kurt.

“The support EACH give us is incredible and it’s not just the things on the surface – they dig down to the core of our situation,” said Fay. “I feel slightly guilty to say that when we were first told about the hospice, I was very reluctant. In fact, I was adamant we wouldn’t go there and it took about a year for me to change my opinion, it felt like giving up. On the contrary, the support we’ve received as a family has been incredible and made the world of difference, both at home and at The Treehouse. As soon as we first walked through the door, I knew I’d got it wrong. My perception of the place changed straight away and I couldn’t believe we hadn’t gone in sooner.”

Fay is immensely proud of Gracie-Leigh, who, despite her health, continues to smile and shine bright. “She’s exceeded all expectations,” she said. “She has various life-threatening conditions, mainly involving her heart and lungs, and pretty much lived in hospital for the first year of her life. She’s had three heart operations and more than 200 anaesthetics. Despite that, she’s an incredibly happy, cheerful little girl and we’re so lucky she is who she is.

“I don’t know where she gets her fight and determination from, her personality keeps us going. She’s the heartbeat of our family and at the centre of everything we do. My other children are fantastic, too, and so caring. They always want to help and get involved, which is so sweet. We’ve always got carers in the house but nothing fazes them, they’re just incredible.”

Three of Fay’s other children, Archie, Mia and Freddie, enjoy sibling events and, earlier this year, visited Suffolk Leisure Park as part of a special day organised by EACH. It was for brothers and sisters of children receiving care at The Treehouse. “It helps them in terms of being around other children in a similar situation,” said Fay, who has another daughter, Lillie-Rose. “It helps them understand and makes them realise they’re not alone, as well as giving them a level of independence because I’m not there. This isn’t something we’d normally access as a family, because of Gracie-Leigh’s needs. It’s brilliant they got this opportunity and didn’t miss out, they got so much out of it.

“Family life can be hard and there’s no getting away from that. From my point of view, as a parent, I just want to keep the other children young and care-free. I don’t want them worrying about me and I feel guilty sometimes. We have to juggle things and although we do our best, we don’t get to do some of the things other families do. That’s why sibling days are so important.”

Published in May 2022

Families’ stories and experiences are unique to them and we have been kindly granted permission to share this family’s story. If you have been affected by what you’ve read or have a question and would like to talk to someone, please contact your local children’s hospice service or Together for Short Lives, the UK charity that supports families caring for seriously ill children (tel: 0808 8088 100). 

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