Caring for a child and raising a family were the farthest things in the minds of Paul and Gabrielle Quilliams before they founded the Hummingbird House in Chermside. It took one child for them to have a change of heart and be inspired to build a world-class facility for families struggling with a sick child.
Gabrielle shared in her TED Talk that she didn’t get a chance to be attached to the babies and their families whilst she was in South Sudan and Angola working as a nurse and midwife. At the time, her mindset was focused on getting in, doing a good job and getting out to work on the next family.
Changing the World as Foster Parents
Returning to Australia after her medical mission in Africa, Gabrielle realized she had this drive to change the world and help. She and Paul agreed to become foster parents when they weren’t yet ready to start a family.
The Quilliams had the opportunity to look after a tiny baby with life-limiting conditions. But the whole time the baby was in their care, Gabrielle still pressed on with this mindset that she was not the child’s mum. She and Paul were just the temporary carers even if their whole lives changed for this baby and they were already in love with her sound, her smell and her general presence in their lives.
Only when their foster baby was finally adopted by a new family did the Quilliam couple feel her impact. They had become a family caring and growing with each other all along that Gabrielle said she regrettably missed the opportunity to fully embrace becoming a mum with this sick child.
A Life-Changing Experience
The experience with this baby made the Quilliams quite aware of the struggles of many other parents and families who had to quit their jobs, adjust their lives and dedicate a chunk of their time to make sure their sick child has a good life, in spite of everything.
“We started to wonder if families like ours could find respite, regular high-quality care in their greatest moments of needs,” Gabrielle said.
Statistics show that there are 3,700 families in Queensland with children suffering from life-limiting conditions. Many of these children won’t survive past their 18th birthday due to the quality of their life.
Feeling compelled to do something, Paul and Gabrielle decided to build a hospice for kids with life-limiting conditions and their families by 2011. With funds and support received from the Federal and State governments, Hummingbird House thrived to give thousands of children medical support whilst their families are also cared for.
Hummingbird House Officially Opens
After working with several sponsors and donors, a bigger Hummingbird House officially opened on Curwen Terrace in Chermside in 2016. This spacious house has eight bedrooms for the patients, five family suites, playrooms, a rock-climbing wall, an indoor garden, a memory room for photo moments, and a rooftop terrace.
This facility has been designed for families to relax away from home whilst still receiving the best care for their sick child. There’s even a gourmet chef to provide the temporary residents nutritious and delicious meals they want to enjoy.
Of course, Hummingbird House has several trained clinical staff and experts in paediatric palliative care. They also have an art and play therapist, family counsellors and volunteers.
“It’s an incredibly happy place where families can reconnect and kids can just be kids and treasured moments can be made,” Gabrielle said during the unveiling of the house to the press.
“Whether it’s for five hours, five days, five weeks or five years we want to fill the child’s time with us with joy and fun while providing maximum support to their families,” Paul said of their work whilst receiving an alumni award from QUT.
As a paediatric palliative care facility, Hummingbird House is also an option for families who don’t want to stay at the hospital or their own home on their child’s final days. A suite is prepared upon the child’s death to allow the families to grieve and say their final goodbyes.
Funding Boost from Queensland
The award-winning facility recently received a funding boost from the State Government, ensuring its high-quality operation for the next five years.
“The continuation of funding from the Queensland Government for the next five years, means we can continue to provide care for children affected by life-limiting conditions and their families, at no cost to them personally,” Hummingbird House General Manager Dr Fiona Hawthorne said.