Published on: 19 May 2020

Specialist palliative care nurses in South Tyneside have pledged to give their own time to help charity 4Louis, which is providing memory boxes for families who lose their loved ones to COVID-19.

4Louis was established to support families through miscarriage, stillbirth and child loss and normally provides memory boxes for bereaved parents. However, the charity is also working tirelessly during the coronavirus pandemic to supply them for relatives of those who succumb to the disease.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust Specialist Palliative Care Nurse Bernadette Selby, who is based at South Tyneside District Hospital, went to see the work at the 4Louis workshop on Pallion Industrial Estate, Sunderland, for herself and was bowled over by the incredible job the charity is doing.

As a result, she and her colleagues, Ashleigh Walton who is also based at South Tyneside District Hospital, and Chantelle Forster and Dawn Townsley who work in the community, have offered to help at the factory when the pandemic is over.

Bernadette said: “What 4Louis do for bereaved parents and now for families who lose a loved one to coronavirus is amazing. They gave me some boxes for the hospital and for families in the community and said we could have more if we needed them. I was so touched by their caring that I wanted to do something for them and they said the most valuable thing I could give to them was my time. When I mentioned it to Ashleigh, Chantelle and Dawn they wanted to help, too.”   

The boxes contain: a blank card where the patient can either write or dictate a letter to their loved ones; a glass angel; a candle; an inkless wipe kit to capture their hand print which can be made into keepsakes such as jewellery; two teddies, one to stay with the patient and one for the family; a box for a lock of hair and Forget Me Not seeds.

Hundreds of the special boxes have already been delivered free of charge to hospitals around the country, including Sunderland Royal Hospital.

4Louis was established by Bob and Tracey McGurrell, of Shiney Row, and their daughter, Kirsty, of Houghton-le-Spring, in memory of Kirsty’s son, Louis, who was stillborn at Sunderland Royal Hospital in 2009. They created a memory box for Louis and thought that every family should have access to one. From there, the charity’s activities expanded. In 2017, a bereavement room, which it funded, was opened at Sunderland Royal.

Kirsty McGurrell said: “We were delighted to have a visit from Bernadette and look forward to her and her colleagues joining us after the pandemic to help build our precious memory boxes. Our work is invaluable but the support we receive from our volunteers is what makes it possible.”

The 4Louis website is