CHILDREN with serious illnesses have been calling Childline out of loneliness over the festive period from their hospital beds after going weeks without seeing loved ones due to Covid-19 related visiting restrictions.
A Cork volunteer from the charity was recently contacted by a young girl with an ongoing illness who said she was only allowed to see one designated adult a day and was lonely despite the best efforts of hospital staff.
Megan Sarl, who took the call, explained that the little girl was by no means alone in her suffering.
The charity has been a shining light to kids suffering as an indirect result of Covid-19 over the past year. This year was Ms Sarl’s tenth Christmas Day working with the charity.
“The lack of interaction has put a huge strain on children,” she said. “Young people are ringing from hospitals. That isn’t something that’s going away. In the last few months to a year it’s definitely become a trend,” she added.
The volunteer referred to one particular phone call.
“A young girl was ringing on her mobile phone who was quite isolated as a result of an ongoing illness,” Megan explained.
“I don’t think this was her first Christmas in hospital. She told me that she was only allowed one visit per day from a designated adult. This meant she was spending a lot of time on her own.”
Night time, Megan explained, can be a very lonely time for children in hospital.
“I was on the phone to that little girl for 40 minutes or so and she was in good form by the end of the call. I think she was mainly feeling fed up and left out. It was about 9.30pm when I came off the call. It’s normally after they go to bed that children make the calls.
“Normally, it’s 10pm or 11pm at night that volunteers find they are up the walls with calls. When the darkness sets in so does the fear and anxiety. It’s always the next morning that things start to look a little bit brighter.”
She described how Childline serves as a connection for children at a time when they feel lonely and vulnerable.
“For that little girl, the big thing on her mind was missing school. That was really difficult for her. She was really upset about not being able to do things in the lead-up to Christmas. Something that might seem like a small thing for us can be huge for a child. Missing school can seem like the end of the world. It’s towards the end of the year that a child’s frustration starts to wear very thin. There is a huge strain on nurses and doctors and the families of children in hospital. That’s why it’s really important that we are there for children.”
Megan is grateful that so many children in hospital are aware of the service.
“The nurses and staff do an amazing job to make Christmas in hospital as special as possible for children. However, it’s much harder for older children who don’t have the distraction of toys and Santa around. I don’t know if the service is becoming very well known or if the nurses have given out the number but we have had quite a couple of calls from children in hospital.”
The charity deals with children from every walk of life from those suffering from physical and emotional abuse to those with relatively minor issues.
To find out more about Childline or to donate visit ww.childline.ie.
Children can freephone the service on 1800 666666 or text 50101. Texts are also free of charge.