New bereavement suite unveiled at City Hospitals Sunderland

A new bereavement suite in the maternity unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital has been officially opened today by former Emmerdale and Billy Elliot star, Charlie Hardwick.

The Louis Suite, supported by local charity 4Louis, is a flagship suite that that will allow parents and their families to spend time with their child and can be replicated in other hospitals.

4Louis supports parents who have experienced the loss of a child. The charity was set up by Kirsty McGurrell after she lost her son, Louis in 2009. Since then Kirsty and her parents, Bob and Tracy have worked with the hospital to provide cold cots and memory boxes for bereaved parents and have worked with the maternity team to create a dedicated bereavement room that was set away from the other delivery room and provides a safe, private space for parents and families to deliver and stay with their baby during those first hours / days, or if they have experienced a sudden loss.

The new room is soundproofed and has a kitchen and sitting area, ensuite bathroom and extra sleeping area so that families can stay together.

Until today the family had no idea that the room would be named after Louis, but due to feedback from social media there was overwhelming support for the name. Also at the opening was former Middlesbrough football player, Stuart Parnaby and other bereaved parents who have made generous donations towards the suite and the charity.

Writer, broadcaster and founder of the Academy of Fabulous Stuff, Roy Lilley took time to see the new room after donating a painting and short verse that he specifically designed for the bereavement suite. He was joined by Dr Theresa Porrett, Co-founder of the Academy of Fabulous Stuff.

Sheila Ford, Head of Midwifery at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Losing a child is an incredibly traumatic experience and it’s important that families are given the space and privacy to be able to receive support and be able to grieve. We have worked with 4Louis for a number of years and really appreciate the input that they have given us in terms of understanding what we can do to support parents and families and make such a difficult time that little bit easier.

“We could not have achieved this without the generous support from the charity and from donations received from parents who have also experienced such loss. Whilst we never want to see any family go through bereavement, we are grateful to be able to provide this flagship suite and will continue to listen to feedback to make sure that we are continually improving the care we offer.”

Bob McGurrell, Trustee of 4Louis added: “After the loss of Louis in 2009 things weren’t perfect because of the loss and the surroundings that we had with pictures of mum’s breastfeeding on the wall and things like that. For me that was something that needed to change. To help Kirsty get through the trauma we started the charity 4Louis to keep his name going. We started by giving Sunderland Royal Hospital ten memory boxes as one off gifts then it just went mad. We now provide them to over 200 hospitals and hospices free of charge. We’re just a small family run charity, but we saw so many things that needed to be changed and one of the things was the provision for a family to grieve in privacy and with dignity.

“It’s a great facility for everybody in Sunderland and I sincerely hope that no one has to use it, but in reality people will and it’s going to be a much nicer environment to be protected and cocooned and deal with your grief at a difficult time in private.”