Berit is mum to two boys and her youngest, Nicholas had meningitis as an infant. This caused injury to his brain and straight after his recovery, he was diagnosed with left-sided hemiplegia. At the age of five, Nicholas started having seizures and has now got extremely severe epilepsy. Because of Nicholas’ high number of daily seizures he also has severe learning difficulties, behaviourial and communication problems.
“The last 10 years has honestly been a rollercoaster of emotions. Nicholas contracted meningitis when he was only five weeks old. He spent quite a long time in intensive care and no-one knew if he was going to survive. At one point, when he was transferred from our local hospital to Kings College Hospital in Londo. We were even told to ‘kiss him goodbye’.
“For the first five years of Nicholas’ life, his brain injury mostly affected his mobility, co-ordination, attention span and speech. In the early stages after his recovery we were just so happy and relieved that he survived, but of course at some point reality kicks in. I felt quite overwhelmed and stressed out with all the medical appointments and visits from different therapists. Although some of the therapists and doctors involved have been very supportive and caring towards us as a family, we as parents never had any specific support.
Parents need befrienders
“Looking back now, I really wished that I had known about Face 2 Face and had had contact with a befriender myself. No one really understands the emotions, the stress, the worrying, the uncertainty and the practical implications having a child with special needs can bring unless you have had similar experiences. No one can understand the total euphoria you feel when your child has reached the slightest (and to some unremarkable) milestone and the strengths and feeling of closeness it can bring to your family unless you have had similar experiences.
“I came across Face 2 Face through searching the Internet. At that time I was doing a Certificate in Counselling and was interested to see what types of support was out there for parents of disabled children. The fact that they were looking for befrienders immediately caught my eye. I contacted the co-ordinator and because we were a group of parents from all over England who had shown our interest, our training as Online Befrienders took place near Birmingham over several weekends.
Face 2 Face training
“I started the Face 2 Face training when Nicholas was about three years old. And that was the first time I got the opportunity to talk to and listen to other parents’ experiences. The other parents were of enormous support to me and I have made fantastic friends for life!”
“I have been befriending online for over six years now. I have befriended parents of children with a wide and different range of disabilities and the length of contact varies from parent to parent. I like being an Online Befriender and I hope that I can give other parents some support through my own experiences. If I could, I would probably have chosen to be befriended online all these years ago. You can make contact in your own time and sometimes it might be easier to express yourself on paper.
“I honestly feel that talking to and listening to other parents of disabled children can be of invaluable support and that is what Face 2 Face is for.”