Many families tell us that our house staff give them a huge amount of support by being in our houses and someone to talk to and listen. One member of the Sheffield team has been our longest serving staff member of 19 years . Ann Wyatt, who runs Sheffield’s Treetop and Magnolia Houses joined us following a career in retail at John Lewis when she spotted a newspaper advert. Since then she has never looked back.
‘I can’t say I won’t cry.’
These were the words that came out when I was asked what they could expect of me, the potential new House Assistant at Treetop House on the top floor of Sheffield Children’s Hospital.
That was 19 years ago and I can say that there are still some days which I can’t get through without crying. Sometimes we meet families who are going through the unimaginable, other times we say goodbye to families who have gotten through the unimaginable. The are some downs, but there are far more ups working at The Sick Children’s Trust’s ‘Homes from Home’.
I still remember seeing inside Treetop House for the first time. It had 12 family bedrooms back then with a living room, kitchen, playroom and shared bathrooms. Walking into the living room, seeing the sun rays skim the treetops and shine a light on this ‘Home from Home’ I instantly understood why this place was here and why it was so important.
As a charity we have always relied on donations to support families with a seriously ill child in hospital with a place to stay. A few years after I joined, I decided I would do a skydive. I’d not done anything like it before as I’m frightened of heights so it was a real challenge for me. I remember sitting with my address book, going through it to tell everyone I knew what I was doing and asking them to pledge. I had to raise £300 and I said to myself that if I couldn’t get that, I wouldn’t be doing it. It was my get out clause! By the time I’d done that night, I’d raised £600! I arrived at the airfield and there was crime scene rope all over – they’d been investigating the death of someone who’d done a skydive. I couldn’t believe it and was thinking, how am I meant to do this now? I did though! Getting back onto land and being greeted by my daughters, Rachel and Alice, was the best feeling ever.
My girls are my world. If they were ever taken to hospital, I would do whatever I could to be there with them. At Treetop and Magnolia Houses we make that possible for families. We make it possible for them to be together.
I have met many families over the years whose stories have stayed with me. The thing about working here in our ‘Homes from Home’ is that you go through every emotion. You go on the journey with the families that stay here and you become their support network. It can be hard not to take work home with you, but I am very lucky that for all the time I have worked here I have had an incredible team supporting me. We allow each other the space to talk and offload which is important – it builds resilience and self-preservation.
Since I started working here, we have doubled the capacity to support families with little ones at Sheffield Children’s Hospital which is incredible. We have gone from 12 family bedrooms at one ‘Home from Home’ to 24 bedrooms across two. In that time we have grown as a charity, we employ more people and have as a result been able to help more families.
My job is so much more than a job. It is something that I carry with me wherever I go. My family and friends are all involved – my daughters have helped with hosting bun sales and my husband comes to events with me. It is a great charity and I am so proud to work for it. Our ‘Homes from Home’ really do make hospital life that little bit easier, I see that every day. All families want is to be with their child and that’s what we make possible.
Ann Wyatt, House Manager at The Sick Children’s Trust’s Treetop and Magnolia Houses