When Natalia was 11-years old, she faced a situation no child should.
Her mum, Kim, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Along with her nine siblings, Natalia was left to journey through her teenage years without a mum… but thankfully there was someone she could count on.
Hayden Bridgeman, school chaplain at Greenbank State School, met Kim early in her battle with cancer and was able to support her, Natalia and her siblings through it.
“When I met Kim, she had just gone through a previous diagnosis and treatment; she was in remission,” Hayden recalls.
“I think for Kim, she did a lot of chatting on the phone with her friends, but it was that face-to-face that she was looking for. Just a supportive, real-life person she could talk to.
“With Kim’s re-diagnosis, she stopped coming in as much because her immune system was down. She felt the prognosis this time was not going to be as good, so her and Morrie [Kim’s husband] sold their house and moved closer to the hospital.
On December 6, 2017, Hayden got a phone call from Morrie. Kim had passed away overnight. Morrie was left with 10 children to care for – no easy task, so he was grateful for the help Hayden provided.
“Kim battled breast cancer for over six years and Hayden was a mountain of knowledge and support for her during this time,” Morrie says.
“She found Hayden very personable, very easy to talk to. They got on like a house-on-fire.
“When we moved to a different school so we would be closer to the hospital, Kim kept in touch with Hayden and in the end asked him to conduct her funeral.
“Hayden talked a lot to our children, which helped them prepare for Kim’s passing. Even though it was quite difficult for them when it happened, they recovered well and handled it better than most would.”
Natalia was in Grade 6 when her mum was diagnosed with her second bout of breast cancer. She found it hard to understand what was going on.
“When mum started spending more time at hospital, I freaked out and knew I needed to talk to Hayden,” Natalia recalls.
“It helped. It helped a lot.
“He helped me understand that it was okay to be sad about it. I would have been a lot more stressed about mum if chappy wasn’t there.
“He’s really really nice. He isn’t just an average person. He’d always make me feel better.”
Having someone who genuinely cares for children and young people in the schoolyard is crucial when they’re walking through pain and grief.
Morrie saw the impact of this support firsthand, and is so appreciative of everything Hayden has done for his children.
“They really just need somebody they can relate to who’s not part of the curriculum team. Someone they can discuss things they would find hard to take to their teacher, and I think chaplains are perfect for that,” Morrie says.
Chappy Hayden formed an incredible friendship with Kim through horrific circumstances.
By supporting chaplains like Hayden, you are also supporting families through crisis and heartbreak – thank you!