Time4Us gave us time to be kids

Being a brother or sister is such an important job, but when you have a poorly sibling, sometimes you have to take on a little more responsibility.

We recognise this and aim to provide support for siblings where we can. Often, children in this situation have to grow up slightly quicker than their peers, as giving medicines and helping with personal cares becomes a day-to-day norm for them.

Our Time4Us group is a source of support for brothers and sisters aged 5-13 and allows them some space and time to just be. It also gives them the chance to meet with other siblings who are going through something just like them.

For Gemma Thompson and Leanne Crosswell, their friendship began 25 years ago at Martin House.

Gemma’s brother, Michael, had a genetic disorder known as Hunter syndrome (MPS II). It was on their first visit to Martin House with Michael in 1994 that Gemma was introduced to Leanne. Leanne was the same age as her, and was staying with her sister, Natalie, who had Batten’s disease.

Gemma said: ‘We just hit it off instantly. Leanne showed me where the best cakes were hidden in the kitchen, which was very important! We enjoyed doing crafty things together and taking part in music sessions.

‘It was in the days before e-mail or social media were around, so we became pen pals and used to write letters to each other. I still have them all to this day. We’d speak on the phone every other Sunday and started staying at each other’s houses for a week or two in the summer holidays as we got older. Martin House was always the halfway point for our families to pick us up or drop us off, as I lived in Darlington and Leanne lived in Cleckheaton.

‘We were each other’s outlets. School friends didn’t always understand if I’d had a tricky few weeks because Michael had been in and out of hospital. But with Leanne, we both understood each other’s situation.

‘I remember understanding at a young age that my brother needed my parents’ attention more than I needed it. Both Leanne and I had to grow up quickly as we were young carers for our siblings, but Martin House gave us the chance to be kids.

‘These days, we tend to meet up at the annual Martin House Open Day and our families will get together, too. It was such an amazing place to us, and still is. I’ve always found it difficult explaining what Martin House did for us, but I think most of all, it gave us time.’

Photo of Gemma and Leanne

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