Nurse hopes to start first children's hospice in Seattle

There are only two children hospices in America. One woman is trying to build one in Seattle so families can be together at all times when they need it the most.

SEATTLE -- After 32 years Suzanne Gwynn quit her full-time job as an oncology nurse to pursue a passion and fulfill a need that she says Seattle has been lacking for a long time. Gwynn hopes to start a children's hospice in the city that provides around the clock care and gives the chance for families to be together at all times during their darkest hours.

"This is my legacy. I believe that this is my purpose," Gwynn said. "I tried for years trying to say somebody needed to do something, but now, before I die I hope I'm that person that makes it happen."

Right now, hospitals don't allow siblings of sick children to stay overnight, so many times families are broken up when all they want to do is be together.

"Watching those fathers go to work and sit up at night so that the mother can go to Ronald McDonald house for some rest, but never having a place where the family could be whole," Gwynn said. "Families needed to be whole. They need the opportunity where they could just be together."

Gwynn wants to help kids and families like Ellie Walton. The three-year-old has a fast moving, malignant brain tumor, and in her three short years she's already had 17 surgeries. Her mom has stayed with her at the hospital while her dad works to pay the bills. Her older sister is left with whoever can babysit.

"My oldest daughter wants nothing more than to be attached to my hip, she's such a momma's girl, and I can never be there for her," Ellie's mother Sarah Walton said. "There are times when we go weeks at a time without seeing her because we're in the hospital."

Gwynn is calling the children's hospice dream "Ladybug House," with a plan to build a 25,000-square-foot home with 12 rooms, eight of them family suites. At the Ladybug House families can receive medical care and have everyone together all at once.

"We need to realize that this is not just a good idea; it's our social responsibility to make this happen for our families," Gwynn said.

Gwynn said she was always the nightshift nurse who took chances to put a smile on the faces of children and now she's taking a chance to bring smiles around a lot more often.

"I was that night shift nurse who let them smuggle their puppy in. Or I was that person putting that pad of blankets on the floor so the siblings could spend the night on the weekend telling the dayshift nurse no, they got in early," Gwynn said. "I was the person taking the stretcher outside with my friends so somebody could see snow for the first time. Or convincing a doctor that he should pierce someone's ears so he could have doctors in heaven."

It is her life's work to better the health of children and now, if Ladybug House becomes a reality, she will better the health and happiness of thousands of families across the area.

"They're trying to fight with us, trying to make it easier for families like us and give us hope," Walton said. "And that's the one thing that we desperately need."

Right now there are only two children's hospice houses in America. The goal is to be mostly donation driven, with some help from insurance. If you would like to learn more about the project, or donate, you can find more information on the Ladybug House website.


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