Making dreams possible

Respite stays at Francis House offer a reality for a family which otherwise would not have been possible.

Smilling family at Francis House

Thabani and Busi at Francis House

In his short life, Thabani, 7, has undergone many operations. These include a tracheostomy to help him to breathe, hip surgery and major cranial surgery to alleviate the pressure on his brain. He cannot walk or talk, or run with his older brother Wandile, but Thabani is a sociable boy and has a big personality.

At any one time, Francis House has around 500 families receiving some form of care. Statutory provision of respite care is minimal in many cases, and Francis House provides support for parents who care for their children twenty-four hours each day, seven days per week, often at the expense of their own health.

Caring for a child with complex medical needs can put a huge strain on families. One or both parents often have to give up work to become full-time carers.

Parents become experts in the care of their child. Every day without a break they go through a never-ending timetable of daily medicines, suction, feeding and pad changes – all in addition to caring for their other children and daily life.

Busi explains: “There are days that you just don’t sleep and you still have to carry on. Sometimes I can put Thabani to bed and he decides he doesn’t want to be left alone. You can’t leave him or he’ll start coughing and is at risk of having a chest infection, so you have to stay with him.

“Sometimes it’s an hour or two hours before he settles. If between four o’clock and six o’clock I have not had a chance to eat, I’m not going to eat until nine o’clock and then I have prepare for the next day.”

“When we first came to Francis House, I can honestly say it was amazing. We came together as a family, and I can’t begin to tell you how Francis House has made possible what we could only have dreamed of."

Busi, Thabani's mum

“We now leave Thabani in the care of Francis House to get some respite for a few days. It was challenging at first, to leave him, but for a few days it means that I don’t have to worry.

“To be able to have a place where you can have up to four stays a year represents a reality which otherwise would not have been possible and one that we could only have wished for.”

Through the generosity of the public the doors of Francis House are kept open 365 days a year and throughout the Christmas period.

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