11 May 2023

Crafty Canberrans' 'bed brighteners' bring much-needed comfort to sick kids

| Travis Radford
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Charlie Clode with his bed brightener.

Melissa Clode’s seven-year-old son Charlie lives with congenital heart disease and chromosomal disorder. Photo: Supplied.

A Canberra mum says the response has been overwhelming after she took to social media to ask for donations of bed brighteners for the Sydney hospital where her seven-year-old son had surgery.

Children’s Hospital Westmead has since received more than 200 of the coloured fabric bed brighteners, which are intended to make extended hospital stays more comfortable for young children.

The influx of themed fabric sheets came after Melissa posted a call-out to a Canberra community group on Facebook a week before her son Charlie’s open-heart surgery in May (2023).

“We are in a heart ward for children … and a lot of the kids here spend many weeks, months, large segments of their lives in hospital,” she says.

“Our nurses do a wonderful job in trying to make our tiny little bed spaces as bright as possible so it doesn’t feel like a clinical hospital.

“So [bed brighteners] make a big difference … it’s amazing what a square piece of fabric can actually achieve.”

Other uses for the brighteners include swaddles, ‘baby nests’ and ‘memory teddies’ for children who have passed away in hospital.

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Melissa’s Facebook post has been shared by more than 240 people at the time of writing, with deliveries coming from as far as Western Australia.

“[Our nurse unit manager] comes into our room pretty regularly, pretty chirpy and excited about what deliveries have come,” Melissa says.

“The fabric is all different so it’s from people’s stashes or people have gone out and bought it specifically, so it makes everything unique.

“It also shows just how much kind spirit there is in the community towards supporting our chronically sick kids.”

As well as the brighteners, Melissa says the hospital has also received handmade toys and quilts, many affixed with beautiful handwritten notes.

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She organised the first donation drive for bed brighteners about five years ago after hearing that Children’s Hospital Westmead was running low on the themed sheets and collected about 1200 of them.

Since then, Melissa has regularly couriered brighteners and other items donated by kind Canberrans to the Sydney Children’s Hospital, where her son Charlie is treated for his congenital heart disease and a chromosomal disorder.

But she issued the social media call-out this year because she had to pack her car full to support her son, who had been in right heart failure.

Melissa and Charlie Clode.

Melissa Clode and Charlie frequently travel between their Canberra home and Sydney for Charlie’s treatment. Photo: Supplied.

Charlie is now recovering in hospital after his fourth open-heart surgery, which Melissa says successfully improved his heart function.

“I often use our story to promote things that are important to our high care community to try and get various things flowing,” she says.

“We’ve always had a wonderful response … particularly at a time like this when it’s actually pretty hard for people to just do the basics.

“People don’t realise … just how much it means to have thoughts from outside this little box that is our bed space.”

Melissa encouraged any crafty Canberrans to keep the brighteners coming, especially those for older children, which are in shortest supply.

She also encouraged people to support the Stella Bella Little Stars Foundation, which assists children in the ACT with serious long-term illnesses.

For more information on how to make and donate bed brighteners to Children’s Hospital Westmead, visit this page. To keep updated on Charlie’s journey, visit this page.

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