True Colours Children’s Health Trust
When Melissa and Richard McBride finally found True Colours Children’s Health Trust, they felt an enormous weight lifted. Their son Oliver was diagnosed with epilepsy at three and, Melissa says, finding True Colours was a game-changer.
“After a couple of years of trying to navigate [Oliver’s condition] ourselves, and basically not knowing what we didn’t know, thankfully we were put in touch with True Colours. It was just amazing - suddenly having someone who was on our team.”
We support families to keep standing
Dr Cynthia Ward,
Founder & CEO of True Colours
True Colours Children’s Health Trust was founded by Dr Cynthia Ward in 2004 to make sure Waikato children with serious health conditions, and their families, have access to nursing support care and counselling. At any one time, The Trust works with about 250 families, spread across the wider Waikato, from Taumarunui up to Meremere and across the Coromandel Peninsula.
True Colours supports the whole family – the child with the chronic, lifelong, or terminal condition, their bewildered siblings, and terrified parents and caregivers.
Serious conditions usually end up separating families for long periods of time.
While one parent is in hospital, the other will often work and care for the rest of the family.
Cynthia is a former paediatric palliative care specialist nurse. She says when your child becomes seriously unwell, it can be a very lonely time marked by constant fear and stress. And, even when there are happy endings, families still harbour a fear of relapse that comes back into view every time the child develops a persistent cough or a sore leg.
“When you get a diagnosis of cancer, you live with cancer for ever.”
“We walk alongside families.”
Sometimes that means travelling to isolated parts of the Waikato to deliver nursing care; sometimes it means welcoming children in for therapy sessions where they can play with medical equipment and practice procedures they are about the face, such as injections, on dolls. The True Colours playroom is full of toys to help children become familiar with a hospital setting - pretend lines and drips, dolls in wheelchairs, rescue helicopters. As they play, they talk with trained psychotherapists who can help them understand their situation.
Melissa says the support provided by True Colours is invaluable.
“We are so grateful that we have the opportunity to work with this place.”
Psychotherapist Stephen Parkinson loves music – and so do most of his clients. He and the kids can often be found making an absolute racket in the music room.
“It’s a time for kids to express themselves, and they don’t have to always do that verbally, of course. Maybe they’ve been hurt by the condition they have, or treatments, maybe they’ve been scared by things.”
Stephen turns on a spray of LED lighting along one wall, sets the children up on electric drums, the keyboard, the ukulele, or countless other instruments, and tells them to be as loud as they want.
“If they can make a lot of noise and feel powerful, that’s a natural way for them to re-engage with being resilient again and just feel that they’ve got some power in themselves, making noise is just always good therapy.”
Psychotherapist, True Colours
Dr Cynthia Ward, founder of True Colours Children’s Health Trust, says: