Mothers give something back

Two mothers who forged a friendship while caring for their severely disabled daughters are raising money for a “lifeline” children’s hospice.

Jane Byrne’s daughter Sophie, seven, and Barbara Smyth’s 14-year-old girl Freya both suffer from multiple seizures every day caused by severe, disabling illnesses.

But for both mothers, the trauma of seeing their daughters suffer has been eased by their friendship.

They were put in touch with one another by a nurse at Derbyshire Children’s Hospital after their daughters had treatment for seizures in the same week.

Jane was already sending Sophie for respite care at Rainbows Children’s Hospice and urged Barbara to do the same for Freya.

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Now the pair are taking part in a sponsored walk for the hospice around Carsington Water.

Barbara, 45, of Mount Pleasant Road, Castle Gresley, said: “I couldn’t manage without Rainbows. It’s an absolute lifeline. It gives us a fantastic break to know they’re safe and cared for.

“We try to raise money for them any way we can to help them the way they help us.”

Freya has Lennox Gastaut syndrome, which means she cannot communicate, uses a wheelchair and has profound learning difficulties.

She has also recently been diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a complicated brain disorder which results in learning difficulties.

Barbara cares full-time for her, which involves everything from hospital visits to feeding her through a gastric tube.

Sophie was born with tuberous sclerosis complex, a genetic disease that causes non-cancerous growths to form in the brain and other organs.

She has two slow-growing, non-cancerous tumours in her brain which cannot be operated on. It means that she has around 70 to 100 fits a day.

Jane, 34, of Burton Road, Midway, said the two girls were friends too.

She said: “Barbara and I immediately bonded. We love to go out together.”

Rainbows, in Loughborough, offers life-limited youngsters from across the East Midlands respite care 10 times a year.

Jane said: “Without Rainbows we would be lost. People just don’t realise how much they do for families like ours.”

The eight-mile sponsored walk starts at the visitors’ centre on Sunday, July 12, at 10am, with registration from 9am. There will also be a two-mile family walk suitable for pushchairs.

Both Jane and Barbara have taken part in the walk before, raising thousands of pounds.

Organiser Paula North said: “Shacklocks Solicitors have kindly sponsored the event which means every penny raised will go directly to Rainbows, making a real difference to the lives of children like Freya and Sophie.”

To register, call Paula on 01509 638039 or visit

Copyright 2009 This Is Derbyshire