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February 2021

2 people sat on the cuddle bed jpeg
Judith Robbins and grandson James Blandford. (Picture: Jake Lynch)

Cuddles can improve comfort and care

In February 2020, Peter and Judith Robbins celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Just a few weeks after that anniversary, Mrs Robbins sat beside her husband during the final moments of his life – he on the hospital bed and she on a plastic chair beside him, her arms wrapped around him as best she could.

‘I just wanted to lie next to him.

‘I wanted to hold him.’

Mr and Mrs Robbins spent just a few days in the palliative care ward at Bairnsdale Regional Health Service before Mr Robbins passed away.

He was 83.

Not being able to be physically closer to the man she loved so dearly, during such an important time, was another heartbreak in a time of many for Mrs Robbins.

Never one to let a problem go unchallenged, she and her family set about seeing whether there was a better way.

‘I got home and just starting Googling ‘palliative care beds’ or something like that,’ said grandson James Blandford.

The pair stumbled upon an article online about Robina Hospital on the Gold Coast that had purchased a ‘cuddle bed’ – essentially a much wider bed with specialised hospital functions – that allowed the family of a palliative patient to comfortably lie next to their loved one.

‘I called Robina right away,’ Mrs Robbins said.

‘They were happy to tell me all about the cuddle bed.

‘From there we started learning all about them.’

And they set their collective energy on providing a cuddle bed for families in east Gippsland.

‘We wanted other families to have the benefit of a bed like this, to help make their end-of-life experience just that little bit more comfortable,’ Mr Blandford said.

But, at upwards of $18,000 per bed, it was always going to be a big ask.

So Mr Blandford turned to the community, launching a Go Fund Me campaign.

‘My grandparents had spent so much of their life helping other people,’ Mr Blandford said.

For more than 30 years the couple ran Annie’s Cottage – a property in Lindenow South for families of children with life-threatening illnesses to enjoy a holiday.

In 2015, they were awarded an Order of Australia Medal for their charitable work.

‘This cuddle bed campaign was one way of giving back to Nan and Pa, who have given so much time helping families.’

The campaign struck a chord.

More than 140 donors raised $25,045 with one donor contributing $5,000.

Though a global pandemic made shipping from the USA a challenge, BRHS was very pleased to finally take receipt of the cuddle bed.

‘This is all in memory of him,’ Mrs Robbins said.

‘It’s a gift in his memory to other families in the future that find themselves here.’