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Maria's Story

Maria's Story

After a gruelling few years of one challenge after another, for Maria it was a Saturday night at a caravan park clubhouse where she finally felt that she could be herself again.

“There was bingo on a scale that I’ve never experienced before,” she laughs. Her eight-year-old daughter Lucy loved the entertainment laid on, and at the end of the evening they both hit the dance floor together.

Seeing them enjoying themselves like this, other people there that night might have thought that they didn’t have a care in the world. But the reality couldn’t be more different.

Some five years ago, at the age of 34, Lucy’s dad had a completely unexpected cardiac arrest. Starved of oxygen for nearly twenty minutes, he suffered horrific brain damage. He’s needed 24-hour nursing and medical care ever since and is a resident in a specialist hospital. 

Overnight, Maria and Lucy’s world was turned upside down and their life has never been the same again.  

The fallout has been immense. Maria has had to come to terms with the loss of her partner and bring up her daughter alone. The worry of how to pay the bills and how they will manage in the future has all fallen on her shoulders. 

Being plunged headlong into such a stressful situation took its toll and her own mental health has suffered as a result. Not surprisingly, Lucy - who was only little when her dad’s trauma occurred - has also been seriously impacted. 

Lucy comes across as quite fiery and confident, but her self-esteem can be a bit low and she can be anxious about things – for example, she’s always worrying something will happen to the people she loves.

So when a chance to leave their worries behind arose, Maria leapt at it, heading south to Parkdean Camber Sands on a weekend away with Family Holiday Charity.

Even just arriving at the caravan was huge fun. Everyone rushed to claim a bed, bursting into giggles when they discovered that their feet stuck out of the end of them! That sense of playfulness was something neither Maria nor Lucy had experienced in a very long time.

Mum and daughter both jumped at the opportunity to try everything that the caravan park had to offer. Together they braved the high wires.

Maria's daughter, Lucy, is taking on the high wires on her holiday at Parkdean. She is securely strapped in whilst an instructor guides her from below.

Lucy and I absolutely loved it. It got my anxiety up quite a lot but the thrill of doing it was brilliant. And it gave her something that she felt she’d achieved so she felt really good about herself afterwards.

Keen to discover the local area, Maria took them off to nearby Dungeness where they spent the afternoon exploring the surreal and otherworldly beachscape. “It’s a crazy old place,” she chuckles.

The seven-mile stretch of sandy beach right on their doorstep at Camber Sands was also a must. “It was windy and a bit damp, but we spent ages playing there, running in and out of the water, making shell patterns.”

A pattern of shells on the sand that Lucy and Maria played with on the beach during their holiday to Parkdean with Family Holiday Charity.

For Maria, the time away meant that for once she could relax knowing that everything had been organised for them. Back in London, her day-to-day life is governed by the constant need to plan and worry – whether about her daughter, her partner, the house or her own health and wellbeing. So some quality time spent with Lucy did her the world of good.

You shouldn’t underestimate how important these things are. Even two nights away makes quite a big difference. It’s not only doing the fun things, it’s the mental break that you get as well.

Maria had been starting to get her and Lucy back on their feet when the pandemic struck. This new setback brought its own series of problems. The hospital where Lucy’s dad lives imposed strict restrictions on visitors and Lucy was unable to see him for almost a year.

According to Maria: “She didn’t know what was going on, she thought that he was going to die.” In the end, Maria had to threaten to take the hospital to court just so that Lucy could see her dad for 20 minutes in the garden. 

The tide is out when Lucy and Maria visited the sea on their holiday to Parkdean with Family Holiday Charity. The sand extends far into the distance, meeting the sky.

The lockdowns were hard on both of them. Although they’ve both received counselling and have the support of family, they felt cut off from these networks and were becoming increasingly isolated. 

The final straw came when a long hoped-for summer trip to Cornwall to see Maria’s dad had to be cancelled when Lucy came down with Covid. “That just broke us to be honest,” Maria recalls.

So the caravan park holiday came at just the right moment. “We had such an awesome time. I feel like we made up for some of the things we missed out on over the summer and we were able to detach a bit from life.”

Replenished and temporarily rejuvenated, Maria now feels ready to tackle what life brings next.