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Rainbow Room Transformed

Back in 2015, Bristol Children’s Hospital recognised a need to better coordinate the support offered to families after the death of their child. It was recognised that there was a lack of coordinated support available to families whose children had died in the community, sometimes unexpectedly, as well as in the hospital. The then Paediatric Palliative Care Team expanded to become the Paediatric Palliative Care and Bereavement Support Team to take on this additional role of providing and coordinating bereavement support. Working with colleagues, the team began an extensive project to develop and expand their service into what it has become today, to enable them to support bereaved parents emotionally and practically in the best way they can and to support other teams across the hospital to do the same. In the same year that the project began, Nicola’s three-year-old son, Max died suddenly from sepsis at Bristol Children’s Hospital. Following Max’s death, Nicola was led into the Rainbow Room to spend some precious, final moments with him. This is a space in the hospital in which families can spend important moments time with their child in the immediate bereavement period. For Nicola, however, the space left a lasting negative memory with her as she felt it was not fit for its purpose. This feedback led the way for the complete renovation of the Rainbow Room as part of the team’s ongoing project to improve bereavement support. Here is Nicola’s story, in her own words.

“In February 2015 our lives changed forever. Our 3-year-old son died from an invasive strep A infection which led to sepsis. He had been poorly for over a week, and had been diagnosed with mumps....unfortunately there was something far more sinister going on that nobody realised was happening. He was transferred to Bristol Children’s Hospital by ambulance after rapidly becoming severely unwell at home. Within minutes of the ambulance crew arriving, he went into cardiac arrest. After trying for over an hour to revive him, he was heartbreakingly pronounced dead at the children’s hospital.

We were taken to the ‘Rainbow Room’ soon after he died. This is a place families can spend time with their children after they’ve passed away, and it was a necessary space to be able to do so. I however noticed how drab the space was; it lacked comfort, and felt very clinical. I felt that something was missing, and given the importance of the room, it maybe could have a little more attention to detail. At a meeting shortly after our son died to discuss our experience, I mentioned that the room didn’t feel like any love had gone into it, and didn’t feel like a peaceful place to go. From that moment, discussions were had, and my dear friend Kellie and my brother took on Grand Challenges running 50 miles and taking part in The Grand Appeal’s Land’s End to Bristol cycle ride, to kick start the fundraising for this vital space. The Grand Appeal took action, discovered there was indeed a huge need for this space to be modified, and brought together the fundraising and partners to make this happen.

After working closely with the bereavement team, design experts and other parents to make sure the room was just right, the co-designed room is finally finished three years on. With cooling mats to enable families to spend more time with their children, new decor and soft furnishings, the result is a much softer, peaceful area to grieve. It’s still a room no parent should ever have to visit, but now it’s a much more appropriate space for them to spend time together, and all because of one very special little boy and a team of very special people.”

rainbow room

If you would like to support the Palliative Care and Bereavement Support Team at Bristol Children’s Hospital, click here, or visit the ‘Swallows & Amazons’ sculpture located at the Willow Brook Centre in Stoke Bradley.