Canuck Place Children's Hospice celebrates 25 years of creating beautiful final memories for families

·2 min read

It's been 25 years since the doors of Canuck Place Children's Hospice first opened and, even while COVID-19 causes global chaos, staff at the pediatric palliative care facility are dedicated to keeping their world as peaceful as possible.

In 1995, the first of two facilities opened in a 16,000-square-foot mansion in Vancouver, and a second location opened in Abbotsford in 2009. At both homes, a clinical team provides medical respite, therapy, end-of-life care and grief counselling for terminally ill children at no cost to families.

"The pandemic doesn't stop serious illness in children," said nurse practitioner Camara Van Breemen, who has worked for Canuck Place since Day 1.

She said staff have found creative ways for families to be together during the pandemic.

This, she said, includes keeping children in their family homes with supports in place rather than moving them into hospice, and arranging outdoor visits for those who are residents.

"Grandparents coming over to hold their grandchild who is dying — we might be doing that in the garden," said Van Breemen, speaking Monday on CBC's The Early Edition.

During her 25 years on the job, Van Breemen says she has witnessed incredibly rewarding moments, such as helping a sick child check something off their bucket list, or watching a family find some solace in the midst of their sorrow.

Recently, she said, she worked with a family who wanted to care for their nine-year-old son in their own home. When he took his last breath, he was lying in bed with his parents and the rest of his loved ones in the room.

After he passed, his mom told Van Breeman how important it had been for him to be home.

"His spirit is very much there and that's been a comfort," said Van Breeman.

On Nov. 30, coinciding with the 25th anniversary and the beginning of the holiday season, Canuck Place locations sparkled with Christmas lights for the annual Lighting of the House celebration.

To hear the complete interview with Camara Van Breemen on CBC's The Early Edition, tap the audio link below: