The mum of an Army patient who has been at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham since September 2015 will be spending this Mother's Day at Fisher House, a ‘home away from home’ for military families run by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB) Charity.
Christina Carter, who lives in West Yorkshire, has been staying at the house for almost six months, after her daughter Abby was injured in August last year. 24-year-old Abby is a soldier in the British Army, and is being treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, which is the receiving hospital for all of the UK’s injured and ill servicemen and women. Fisher House is within short walking distance of the hospital, meaning that Christina can see her daughter every day while she remains in hospital.
Fisher House was built in 2013 at a cost of £4.2 million, with grant funding from QEHB Charity, Help for Heroes and American charity Fisher House Foundation. Its mission is to provide free, comfortable accommodation for the families of wounded and severely ill troops and veterans. It has 18 en-suite bedrooms and guests can stay for as long as they need to; Fisher House’s longest resident was there for 18 months whilst her husband was in hospital.
Now, with Mother’s Day (Sunday 6 March) around the corner, Christina is seeking to raise awareness of the importance of Fisher House for military patients and their families. Receiving no funding from the NHS or MoD, Fisher House relies heavily upon charitable donations from the public. In addition, the 'home away from home' receives £50,000 each year from Help for Heroes and SSAFA to support the running costs.
Speaking about her experiences, Christina said: “Fisher House is a godsend. Anyone who has walked through the doors knows how important it is. As a mother, when you hear your child is hurt, you just want to be there by their side. Having Fisher House takes so much pressure off because I know I can see Abby every day. Her brother comes down at weekends too to visit and it’s such a relief for both of us not to have to worry about where we’re going to stay.”
With communal facilities including a family room and play area, lounge, ‘cinema room’, kitchen, dining areas and laundry room, Fisher House is designed to allow military patients and their loved ones a safe space away from the wards where they can spend time as a family or with others in a similar situation. This offers a unique support system at what is often an incredibly emotional and stressful time.
“I don’t know where I’d be without Fisher House,” Christina added. “Everyone here is able to support each other, and the staff are absolutely amazing; so helpful and hands-on. Everybody’s here for you if you’re having a bad day. It really does feel like a home away from home.
“It’s hard to believe all of this is funded by donations, but it really is. For a family to stay for one night in Fisher House costs £25. This Mother’s Day, I would ask people to please consider making a donation so that military families can continue to receive this vital support.”
Since it opened its doors less than three years ago, Fisher House has provided nearly 10,000 nights’ of accommodation to people ranging in age from one month to 96 years. It is free to use for any military family whose relative is receiving treatment at the hospital, as well as for military outpatients who return to the hospital for physiotherapy, counselling or check-ups but who don’t need to stay on the wards overnight.
Mike Hammond, Chief Executive of QEHB Charity, said: “Enabling families to stay together whilst one of them is in hospital, potentially for an extended period of time, is really important. The last thing we want is for people to have to worry about paying for a hotel or travelling regularly from across the country to visit their loved ones. Donations to help keep Fisher House going are vital, and I want to thank everyone who had given so far – we couldn’t do it without you.”
Bryn Parry, CEO and Co-Founder of Help for Heroes, said: “Families have a hugely important part to play in the recovery process and we recognise how essential it is that they are involved from an early stage. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity to enable families to be together while they begin to rebuild their lives.”