Joshua's Story

At Martin House, we endeavour to do everything we can for those families who need us, which includes keeping our doors open 24/7, 365 days a year, so our support can be accessed all year round. Christmas is a magical time of year, and we try to make this wonderful for those who are staying with us during this period, but we’ll also be there for families who have sadly lost their child at this time, helping them to navigate through their grief.

For Alana and Paul, last Christmas Eve they devastatingly said goodbye to their ten-month-old son Joshua. Amidst the shock and turmoil of Joshua’s death, their family managed to find some comfort with the support of Martin House.  

“Before Joshua was born, we knew he had complications with his heart, but these were minor and manageable. There was also a rare chance that this could be linked to other more serious problems. Shortly after his birth, he was taken to the special care baby unit where doctors found problems with his liver and bowels, which meant he had to undergo major surgery at just four weeks old. While we knew he had significant health problems, we never expected to lose him”, said Alana, Joshua’s mum.

“He was a really easy-going baby and rarely kicked up a fuss about anything despite everything that was he was going through. Even when he had to have his bloods taken, he would sit there incredibly relaxed and smiling away! His eyes would follow me around the room and he was always content.”

After a few months, it became clear that Joshua’s liver wasn’t functioning correctly. He was put onto the liver transplant list but very quickly deteriorated as more problems became apparent. He spent most of November and December in hospital with his parents taking turns living in the hospital with him. Despite specialist care, Joshua continued to deteriorate and was admitted to intensive care.

It was on the morning of Christmas Eve in 2019 when Joshua’s family were told there was nothing further that doctors could do for him.

“I remember looking up at the stars in the sky a few days earlier and crying, knowing that we were losing him. Every organ in his body had the support of a machine and the drugs given to him weren’t helping”, said Alana.

“We now know that, had Joshua received a liver transplant, he wouldn’t have survived as his body wasn’t responding to any treatment. It was only after we lost him that we realised he had a life-limiting condition. In some ways, it was a good thing we didn’t know this as it kept us hopeful. We were able to spend some time with him before the machines were switched off, and the chaplain at the hospital visited his bedside to christen him.

“On top of losing Joshua, we realised there was no way that we could make arrangements for after his death on Christmas Eve. The bereavement centre at the hospital would be closed for the next few days and we wouldn’t be able to see Joshua after leaving the intensive care unit. That was when our nurse specialist at the hospital suggested contacting Martin House, where we could spend some time with him and be supported in our decisions.

“We arrived at the hospice that evening. I remember seeing fairy lights all around the hospice and thinking that for the first time in months, Joshua was in a calm and peaceful setting. We’d been hearing the beeps of monitors all day every day, so Martin House allowed us to get away from that at the end. For Joshua’s older siblings, saying goodbye to their baby brother at the hospital on Christmas Eve was extremely difficult, so the hospice allowed us some breathing space. In hindsight, it meant a huge amount for them to be in such a calm environment.

“We visited Joshua at Martin House over the next three days and his brother and sister were able to spend time in the playroom while we made important decisions. They were given Christmas presents by the staff at Martin House, and just recently they told us how much they appreciated being given those at such a difficult time. We’ve decided to make this a Christmas tradition for us now, to take presents for other siblings at Martin House who are experiencing losing their brother or sister and may also appreciate this small gesture.”

Alana and Paul were due to begin some bereavement counselling in person at Martin House, but with the coronavirus pandemic, this hasn’t been possible. They have, however been in telephone contact with our bereavement team who ring fortnightly.

“Having bereavement support at Martin House allows us to talk about Joshua with people who can understand our grief. I think being able to meet and connect with other families who have had similar experiences to us will also be helpful.”