Thursday 25 May 2017

Kate meets bereaved parents during visit to children's hospice

The Duchess of Cambridge arriving at East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) in Quidenham, Norwich, as it continues fundraising for a new purpose-built hospice in Norfolk. Photo: Adrian Dennis/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cambridge arriving at East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) in Quidenham, Norwich, as it continues fundraising for a new purpose-built hospice in Norfolk. Photo: Adrian Dennis/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The Duchess of Cambridge has heard the heart-rending story of a couple who lost their young son to an inoperable brain tumour during a visit to a hospice.

Kate sympathised with Tristan and Claire Cork whose five-year-old son Finnbar died last summer despite a course of intensive treatment and told the husband and wife "I'm a mother and I can't imagine what you've been through" and gave them a hug before she left.

The Duchess of Cambridge arriving at East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) in Quidenham, Norwich, as it continues fundraising for a new purpose-built hospice in Norfolk. Photo: Adrian Dennis/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cambridge arriving at East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) in Quidenham, Norwich, as it continues fundraising for a new purpose-built hospice in Norfolk. Photo: Adrian Dennis/PA Wire

There were lighter moments during Kate's visit to the hospice in the Norfolk village of Quidenham, run by East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH), with the Duchess avoiding an avalanche of tinsel when she joined children for an art therapy session.

She admitted her first public speech five years ago - in praise of EACH which she supports as royal patron - was "terrifying".

Kate met the bereaved couple, who were joined by their two remaining children, for a private chat during her tour of the hospice which EACH is planning to replace with a £10 million purpose built facility.

Speaking after the royal visit Mr Cork praised the care and support his family and their son had received at Quidenham and the counselling the charity provided after their loss.

Tristan and Claire Cork alongside their two children, who chatted with Duchess of Cambridge as she toured East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) in Quidenham, Norwich, as it continues fundraising for a new purpose-built hospice in Norfolk. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Tristan and Claire Cork alongside their two children, who chatted with Duchess of Cambridge as she toured East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) in Quidenham, Norwich, as it continues fundraising for a new purpose-built hospice in Norfolk. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

He added: "We said to her just over a year ago we had a little boy who was healthy, a five-year-old boy going to school, riding his bike, going swimming.

"And in the space of six months we had to watch him become so disabled and so unwell.

"People don't think that's going to happen in their lives and (it) doesn't matter if you're a worker, or a businessman or a member of the Royal Family - whoever you are, that can happen."

Finnbar Cork was diagnosed with a brain tumour in March last year after suffering dizzy spells and unsteadiness and died five months later after his condition deteriorated.

The Duchess of Cambridge (centre) participates in a craft session with Isabella Benton (left) and Amy Hewett (2nd right), in the Art Therapy room, during her to visit East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) in Quidenham, Norwich, as it continues fundraising for a new purpose-built hospice in Norfolk. Photo: Adrian Dennis/PA Wire
The Duchess of Cambridge (centre) participates in a craft session with Isabella Benton (left) and Amy Hewett (2nd right), in the Art Therapy room, during her to visit East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) in Quidenham, Norwich, as it continues fundraising for a new purpose-built hospice in Norfolk. Photo: Adrian Dennis/PA Wire

Mr Cork (34) from the village of Hethersett, near Norwich, lamented the lack of money allocated to finding a cure for brain tumours.

A spokesman for Brain Tumour Research said: "Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killers for children and adults under 40, yet just 1pc of national spend on cancer research goes to this disease."

The 34-year-old said about Kate: "She was really compassionate, she gave us a hug afterwards."

During the visit the Duchess was welcomed by pupils from three schools outside the hospice and collected bouquets of flowers from the youngsters.

When she joined a group of children for an art therapy class, after meeting their parents, she narrowly avoided getting glitter and paint on her emerald green Hobbs suit.

The Duchess sat next to six-year-old Isabella Benton, who has a number of neurological conditions.

Isabella was intent on covering her picture with as much glitter and paint as she could, and she made Kate laugh when she tipped all the sparkling decorations over her artwork.

When Kate saw some toy dinosaurs on a shelf she said, in an apparent reference to three-year-old Prince George: "I can see that would go down well with someone I know."

Rachel Turner, a play specialist at the hospice, said afterwards about the Duchess: "It was a close-run thing she just avoided the glitter and paint."

Isabella's mother Michala Benton, who has three other daughters, said: "My little girl Daisy asked her what's it like to be a real princess and Kate said she's very well looked after by her husband.

"She said I do amazingly well with the kids and said Charlotte and George run in different directions all the time, and I said 'I'm glad I'm not the only one whose kids are like that' - she was very down to earth."

Kate's visit gave her the chance to see the hospice and meet its staff before it is replaced by The Nook - a purpose-built facility which will allow EACH to provide more services like a hydro-pool for the children with life-threatening conditions.

The Duchess helped launch The Nook Appeal in 2014, and she was updated on the project's progress.

More than £5 million, out of a target of £10 million, has been raised so far.

Graham Butland, EACH's chief executive, thanked the Duchess for visiting during a reception attended by volunteers, supporters and staff.

He looked back at her involvement with the charity starting in 2011 when she first visited a hospice before becoming royal patron.

When he told the audience "That journey developed as we went into your first public speech", Kate said the word "terrifying".

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