Maria’s Winter Wander

Hospice families and supporters walk in memory of loved ones.

Mother and daughter smiling stood by frozen canal

Sumaira and Maria walked 8 miles raising more than £3,360 for Francis House

Francis House invited friends and supporters to take on the New Year Winter Wander walking challenge and more than 40 of you pulled on your boots and helped to raise in excess of £6,000.

We are grateful to everyone who took part and here are a few of our ‘Winter Wanderers’.

Maria’s story

On January 2, twelve-year-old Maria Mahmood together with her mum Sumaira, Maria’s dad Ansar, dogs Daisy and Lucy and family friend Nick, completed their eight mile walk through the frosty Cheshire countryside.

Maria had wanted to do something truly special for Francis House, the place that had given her some of the ‘best’ memories with her older brother Hasan.

As Maria and Sumaira climbed back into their car, they felt tired but fulfilled, ready to head home to Stretford. As they set off, snow began to fall in fluffy clumps.

“It felt like Hasan was throwing confetti on us. It was just magical,” said Sumaira.

Maria and Hasan Mahmood

Maria and Hasan

Hasan was born in 2004 with the neurological condition Lissencephaly, meaning “smooth brain”. Symptoms of the disorder include developmental delay, reduced muscle tone, partial blindness and epilepsy. Hasan was non-verbal but could say ‘mum’. When he was diagnosed at six months old, there were only 20 children in the UK with the condition.

In 2019, a neurologist referred Hasan to Francis House – a relief to Sumaira, a podiatrist at the NHS Manchester Foot Hospital in Rusholme, who had struggled to find the level of care that she had wanted for her son. To her delight, her children settled into the home from home environment from the very start.

“When I stayed with Hasan and Maria on my first visit at Francis House, I felt that the staff took the caring responsibility very seriously. I was relaxed because I felt Hasan was in safe caring and professional hands.

“I saw Maria feeling comfortable with other siblings who have disabled brothers or sisters. I could see the confidence in her face when she realised that she was not the only child whose brother could not walk or play with her and that it was normal to feel the way she was feeling. It melted my heart that she experienced things that we could discuss with each other.”

“Maria loved staying at Francis House with her brother Hasan and it gave me a peace of mind that no other place gave me. I remember saying to myself ‘Francis House - where have you been all my life?’.

Sumaira Mahmood

For their Winter Wander the family walked the ‘Lymm Loop’ a circular walk, one of three pre-planned routes provided by Francis House, the others being the ‘Reservoir Round’ in Turton and the ‘Saddleworth Circuit’ in Oldham.

Setting off from Lymm Village and following the Bridgewater Canal path, they walked established tracks through Dunham Massey National Trust and the Trans Pennine Trail.

With temperatures of -1 to 2C stretches of the canal path were frozen.  Seeing a goose landing on the water, before sliding on the ice and crashing to the other geese caused much hilarity in a walk that took them 3 hours and 40 minutes to complete.

A pupil at Manchester High School for Girls, Maria has always thought of others; keeping extra stationary in her pencil bag just in case anyone forgets theirs and offering her birthday money for charities like Children in Need.

Caring for a child with a life-limiting condition can have a profound effect on every member of the family but Maria developed a very special bond with Hasan.

Sumaira explained: “When Hasan was being difficult with me, Maria used to take over and calm him down. Hasan used to listen to her and sometimes preferred to be fed by her.

“Maria made us proud so many times, she was very brave when Hasan had admissions to hospital. She really wanted to be part of the difficult times and to help him get through it. She baked brownies for the staff and wanted to stay with him to keep him positive.

“With this eight-mile walk she has really pushed her boundaries to make a difference to other families with special needs so that they too can make the most of the time they’ve got and make precious memories together.

Boy in wheelchair smiling

Hasan enjoyed respite stays at Francis House.

“Hasan was a very happy social boy he loved one to one attention. He knew how to use his long eye lashes to flirt with all the ladies around him and absolutely loved making the most of all the attention.

“If there had not been the COVID-19 pandemic and he had more time he would have celebrated his 16th birthday at Francis House.”

Hasan was rushed to hospital in April 2020 and later diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a disease of the heart muscles. On July 25, he died at home in his sleep at the age of 15 years and 11 months.

“Maria used to avoid the places that triggered her memories of Hasan. But now she is ready to speak to those who are in the same place of losing siblings. She is looking forward to meeting up at Francis House with other siblings when the sibling support sessions are up and running after lockdown.”

Maria’s Winter Wander raised an incredible £3,363 and she would like to thank all her family and friends from the UK and abroad for supporting her.

Wanderers gallery

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