A blog from Camp Simcha Family Liaison Officer Orly Katz

As a Camp Simcha Family Liaison Officer, supporting the siblings when a child is seriously ill has always been a key part of what I do, but the importance of this really hits home for me with families who have a baby born sick or very prematurely.

Camp Simcha has had a dramatic rise in referrals in this area so I am supporting an increasing number of families in this situation.

Often the siblings are quite young and not able to understand what is happening; all they know is their new baby arrived and suddenly their mummy is never home.

We work to mitigate the practical stresses with crisis meals, hospital transport, respite and volunteers for the siblings, as well as therapeutic activities if appropriate. However, we often need to think outside the box as well.

One of my families has a baby who was born with a very severe genetic condition, and for the three-year-old sibling, her whole life has changed. They moved from Leeds to London so they can be near Great Ormond Street Hospital – leaving grandparents and all that is familiar. Mum is desperately worried about the impact this is having on her daughter.

We have organised respite at the hospital so that mum can come home occasionally, as well as therapy, art and some special treats sent in ‘from’ her baby brother.

We also created a bespoke photo book to explain what was happening. It has pictures of her baby brother, at the hospital and with the doctors; a page about what happens when mummy is not there, and one on what to do if you miss mummy, which shows a picture of a teddy bear. We sent her the same bear which plays a recording of mummy’s voice saying ‘I love you’. She reads her ‘special’ book about three times a day and loves it.

We can’t change what is happening in her life but sometimes a bit of creative thinking can really go a long way.