The country's first hospice for children has been officially opened by the President, Mary McAleese.
LauaLynn House in Dublin provides high quality care to children up to the age of 18, who have life limiting conditions. The house has eight en-suite bedrooms and four family suites and also includes a meeting room, quiet room, playrooms and a garden.
After a child has passed away, the Butterfly Suite will provide a 'resting place' for them and their family.
The hospice cost €5.5 million to complete and all of this money was raised via fundraising by the Children's Sunshine Home and the former LauraLynn Hospice Foundation.
The Children's Sunshine Home is a charity that supports children with life limiting conditions and their families. In 2005, it launched a hospice project and in 2007, it merged with the LauraLynn Hospice Foundation, which was set up by Jane and Brendan McKenna after the deaths of their two daughters, Laura, aged four, and Lynn, aged 15, within two years of each other.
According to Philomena Dunne, CEO of the Children's Sunshine Home, the official opening of the hospice is a ‘momentous day'.
"We are ever grateful for the tremendous support we have received over the years and hope people will continue to support the Children's Sunshine Home so that we may reach out to more families in need, here and in their homes," she said.
Speaking at the opening of the hospice, President McAleese described the death of a child as ‘utterly life altering'.
'Nothing and no one can make easy the experience of the illness, dying and death of a child. But there are ways in which some of the dread, some of the fear, some of the awful loneliness can be assuaged. That is what LauraLynn House exists for," she said.
Currently, there are more than 1,400 children living in Ireland with life limiting conditions and some 350 children die every year from these conditions. Research carried out by the Children's Sunshine Home and the Irish Hospice Foundation last year found that there were almost 750 children with life limiting conditions in the Dublin mid-Leinster and Dublin north east areas alone.
It was estimated that 411 of these children would have an active palliative care requirement in 2011.
According to consultant paediatrician, Dr Joanne Balfe, children with life limiting conditions have highly specialised needs.
"At LauraLynn House we will work with families and hospitals to develop the best treatment care plans for their children. While caring for a sick child we are always conscious of their physical, emotional and spiritual needs and those of their families. This is why having onsite accommodation for parents and siblings is so important," she explained.
Meanwhile, Jane and Brendan McKenna described the opening of the hospice as ‘wonderful' and said that their daughters, Laura and Lynn, ‘will be very happy that something so joyful has come as a result of their short lives and our sad loss'.
For more information on LauraLynn House, click here
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