New sensory area at Worthing Hospital in tribute to Charlie

Play leader, Hayley Edwards in the projector tent, with Brian and Christine Ashton

Play leader, Hayley Edwards in the projector tent, with Brian and Christine Ashton

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CHRISTINE and Brian Ashton know just how vital the children’s ward at Worthing Hospital can be.

The parents called on the services of the department at two important times during their son Charlie’s life.

Christine gave birth six months into her pregnancy. At just 26 weeks old, Charlie was admitted to the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, for three months and then the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at Worthing Hospital for one month.

Brian, 34, said: “We learnt then just how incredible the SCBU department is. Nothing was ever too much trouble for the nurses.”

Slowly, Charlie grew stronger and the family were able to go home.

However, two years ago, when he was three years old, Charlie lost his vision and needed use of a wheelchair by the age of four.

“Doctors thought he had a possible genetic disorder,” said Christine.

Charlie, who attended Palatine Primary School for a short while, needed lots of care from Worthing Hospital’s children’s ward while he was sick – and got to know the nurses as if they were members of his family.

Christine, who is a nurse herself, said: “He was always in the playroom, he hid from the nurses in there and just loved to play.”

Towards the end of his life, Christine and Brian had the chance to transfer him to Chestnut Tree House Children’s hospice, near Angmering, but decided they preferred for Charlie to stay at the children’s ward, surrounded by the things he knew.

“The care these nurses gave Charlie and us was incredible,” said Christine.

In January, Charlie died. Doctors are still carrying out tests to find out why, but they now believe he may have had a spinal-cord disorder.

Christine, 32, added: “Charlie spent the last few days of his life in the playroom. It’s very well equipped for abled children, but Charlie wasn’t able to use all the toys so we wanted to equip the room with something less-abled children will enjoy.”

The couple, of Oakley Road, Worthing, asked for donations instead of flowers at Charlie’s funeral and placed a donation box at The Smugglers Return pub in Ham Road. They used money to purchase two pieces of specialised sensory equipment for the children’s ward play room – a projector and an infinity mirror.

Hospital play assistant Hayley Edwards said: “These items will give any child hours of endless fun but, most importantly, this is something special for children like Charlie.”

Brian added: “We’re very grateful to everyone who donated money for this equipment, to the hospital, our family, Origin Group UK, which donated a plaque for the play room, and Full of Beans, which donated a bean bag.”