Throughout history, society has found ways to care for the chronically ill as they prepare for the end of their lives. In ancient China, “death houses” were created for the dying and destitute to stay. Great Britain made major developments in the practice of end-of-life care, dealing with pain management and the transitioning of families as their elderly parents passed on.
Over the centuries, this practice has evolved to caring for pets, with more than 400 animal hospices in the United States, and about ten times that number for our aging parents.
But what is overlooked is that in the U.S., with bragging rights to some of the most amazing medical breakthroughs in the world, we are humbled when it comes to caring for our dying children.
Out of the thousands of hospices in our country, only two are made for children. Two. Out of more than 4000.
That means a dying cat has a 99.5% better chance at finding a hospice than does a four-year-old living in Lynnwood.
“I think the real problem is, people don’t realize this is a problem,” said Suzanne Gwynn, a pediatric nurse who is parlaying her decades at the hospital for a new cause: to build in Seattle what will be just the third children’s hospice in the U.S. When we met a few months ago, I saw a passion in her eyes for the cause; yet a passion tempered by the sadness she has seen in her patients and their parents.
She told me, “When your parents die, you’re an orphan, when your spouse dies, you’re a widow or a widower. But there is no word for what you are when you are a parent who loses a child. It’s unimaginable.”
Right now, I’m helping to raise awareness for the children in our country – those who know they are dying and will die soon. So they get the chance to find a place to stay that’s not a hospital or home where there’s no nurse.. a place where they can have their pain managed, and have their little sister sleep over and Maddie the dog snoring next to the bed. It’s a home… away from home. Where little ones can take their final breaths in peace. It’s called Ladybug House. And the only thing standing in the way of its existence is money. And that’s where you come in.
They’re in need more than 20 million dollars to build the facility – but climbing every mountain comes with one first step – the first campaign is 45k in 45 days. Right now, they’re about ten percent of the way there. But any amount will help - $5, $20, or $45 – a dollar a day for each day of the campaign.
It’s a small amount that can help send a child on their way with ladybug wings… and tiny little hearts full of joy.