A MUM-of-four who runs her own nursery and cares for her severely disabled son has praised Cumbria’s Jigsaw children’s hospice for its vital support.

Speaking out on Hospice Care Week, superwoman Claire Sharpe said that while they get much-needed respite, Jonathan has gained some independence.

She wants to raise awareness of the services the Carlisle facility provides to families countywide.

Claire, of Lamplugh, near Cockermouth, knew she was expecting twins, and was sent across to Newcastle to give birth. Unfortunately Jonathan was born disabled, and had a tough start to life.

He needed fluid drained from his brain and later contracted meningitis. “It was touch and go for a while. He was left severely disabled,” said Claire, 52.

Already having two children and a farm to run, she and husband Kenneth now had a brood of four, and one with complex care needs. Their lives changed dramatically, and she had to give up her fashion shop in Cockermouth to care for Jonathan.

But the couple seized their new life head-on, with Claire later retraining and setting up her own nursery business on their family farm. She now employs 15 staff, looks after 36 children and has an outstanding Ofsted report - all while proving 24-hour care for Jonathan, now 22.

But even Claire - who is up most of the night looking after him - needs a break at times.

Initially she admits being reluctant to use the hospice, because she didn’t think she could leave him with anyone else. But now she says it was the best thing she could have done, for both of them.

“He was 13 and I decided I had to let go a bit. It was heart-wrenching, but I knew as soon as I went in he’d be happy there. I felt at home right away,” she said.

“The second time he went I realised how much it benefited the rest of the family, to have that break. He does need 24/7 care.

“Jonathan loves the hospice. He has made friends there and the staff all know him. It’s like a holiday for him and gives him some independence.

“He can’t walk or talk, but you learn to read him. He’s happy, and I believe life is for living. That’s my motto. Since I had Jonathan I’ve lived by that,” she added.