Short lives shine bright at Canuck Place
There is no apprehension when Chris and Hollie Hall walk through the gates along a pathway through the gardens to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. They remember the nurturing care their whole family received at a time when they needed it the most.
Chris and Hollie did not always feel this way. Many families who are first introduced to Canuck Place are not ready to accept specialized care that will change the future of their lives.
Canuck Place is B.C. and the Yukon’s only pediatric palliative care provider, caring for over 830 children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Canuck Place provides medical respite, complex care in-home, in-hospital and in-hospice, pain and symptom management, music and recreation therapy, art, education, end-of-life care, and grief, loss and bereavement counselling — all at no cost to families.
Lily Hall was diagnosed with a rare, malignant brain tumour when she was 13 years old. After many years of treatment, the Hall family found their way into Canuck Place care in 2017, when Lily was 16 years old.
“At first we were not happy to see Canuck Place staff because we knew they were a hospice for children to go to die,” Hollie explains. “It was scary and confusing. We had so much hope that Lily would recover.”
Canuck Place clinicians walked alongside the Hall family from the start of Lily’s diagnosis, while they utilized many of Canuck Place’s family support services. Medical respite care at the hospice was available to the Hall family to allow them much needed rest from caring for their daughter 24/7. Lily received complex medical care to manage her pain and keep her comfortable and Chris and Hollie stayed in the family rooms just above the medical floor in the hospice.
When we stayed in the family suite at Canuck Place, we were all taken exceptionally good care of.
“Lily was exceptionally kind and caring,” Chris reflects. “She was a beautiful girl, interested in people’s stories and was never afraid to compliment people she saw on the street, in the elevator, or anywhere she went.”
Many Canuck Place staff remember her fondly, reflecting on her energy, her smile and her genuine interest in their lives.
The Hall family said Canuck Place recreation therapy was important in the time spent at the hospice. Canuck Place Recreation Therapists organized seats behind the net at a Vancouver Canucks game and they were even able to meet Canuck alumni Daniel Sedin. Lily attended a ballet show, ventured out to visit a farm and spent time with incredible Canuck Place volunteers to play games, paint her nails and just sit with her. Hollie takes comfort in knowing that Lily was loved and well cared for during her time at Canuck Place.
As part of the recreation therapy program, the Hall family participated in memory making — an invaluable service offered by Canuck Place Recreation Therapists that helps families create hand and foot molds, finger print necklaces, hair locks and photos during that crucial time when a child is nearing the end of life.
Hollie recalls the time when Canuck Place recreation therapists Laura and Gillian came over to help the Halls make their family hand mold. “It was a time for us as a family to laugh and feel connected (literally) at what really was an incredibly sad time,” says Hollie.
We got to escape the reality that our daughter was dying and have a joyous time.
The Hall family also made beautiful pendants with Lily’s fingerprint and name engraved on the back. “I wear mine always,” says Hollie.
Today, Canuck Place continues to play a big role in the Halls’ life. They meet with Canuck Place counsellor Andrea for grief counselling, attend bereavement group with other families run by Canuck Place counsellors and sit on the Canuck Place Family Advisory Council — a group that enhances the experiences of all families at Canuck Place and in all locations of care the hospice provides.
Canuck Place nurses, physicians and counsellors work with families like the Halls to ease the journey with love, grace and individualized care plans that focus on quality of life for the entire family. “Canuck Place is a sanctuary that nurtures the entire family in a holistic way,” says Hollie. The Canuck Place team went above and beyond to try and alleviate the anxiety and sadness that Lily experienced with her diagnosis and throughout her illness.”
Canuck Place is there with love, care and guidance when families need it most. This is only possible with donor support.
Every gift received this holiday season, will support children like Lily to live fully with the time they have left. With you, Canuck Place gives short lives the chance to shine. Light the way. Triple your impact! Donate now through Dec. 31 and your gift will be triple matched.
A version of this story was originally published in The Vancouver Sun on Nov. 4