lauren looking at camera

“St Catherine’s literally gave me my life and body back”

“I have Idiopathic Arterial Pulmonary Hypertension, which causes the blood pressure in my pulmonary artery, which brings blood from my heart to my lungs, to increase. I was first referred to St Catherine’s Hospice in 2013 for yoga and relaxation to help me with my panic attacks. But I stopped coming because for me, at the time, a hospice was about dying. Coming here felt like a stigma.

As I deteriorated, my pain got worse and I could hardly do anything for myself. Clothing touching my skin was agony, I couldn’t sit still and I’d be in tears walking around. My medication had stopped absorbing into my stomach and I was in need of the expert care that St Catherine’s could give me. I really couldn’t believe they were so open to caring for me after I had thrown it back in their face the first time.

St Catherine’s community nurses came out to visit me at home everyday. The nurses were so compassionate and happy. They were genuinely interested in my whole family and our needs and gave me options I didn’t know I had. St Catherine’s literally gave me my life and body back.

“A stay on the Inpatient Unit changed my perspective”

I knew my illness was terminal and the plan was for me to go to my mums for my end of life care, but fate changed this plan. While my mum was on holiday, I had a seizure and was very distressed emotionally so I had a short stay in St Catherine’s Inpatient Unit. It was this stay that changed my perspective. I was treated with respect, compassion and dignity, it felt calm and stress free and the Nursing Team were absolutely lovely. I decided I’d like my end of life care to be here. Although my mum didn’t like the idea at first, she soon changed her mind. It wasn’t doom, gloom and sombre like she’d expected. It’s serene and each patient is cared for as if they’re the only one here.

Anything I want, St Catherine’s does; quick as a flash, they’re there. They also help me do what I want. I still enjoy a cigarette so they offered to move my bed outside so I could smoke. I was worried what people might think but they told me it didn’t matter; they’re just angels.

“Every staff member and volunteer plays their part”

Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a caricature drawn and been visited by a Pets as Therapy cat and dog. Sometimes it even feels like a spa! I’ve had meditation and reiki, my nail technician visited to do my nails and another lady painted my toes.

There’s a man in a waistcoat who brings around the drinks trolley; he looks like a little bartender, and the food is amazing. The Catering Team make me special puddings as I often want sugar. When the chef found out, she started making me cakes. One day, she brought a lemon cake to my room and as I love frosting, another time, she bought a frosted chocolate cake. It amazes me how everyone remembers the tiny things.

Recently, it was my husband’s birthday so the kitchen staff arranged a surprise afternoon tea for him. They decorated a tea trolley with banners and balloons and made lots of cake and tea. Family and friends joined us and it was really lovely to celebrate.

“The hospice hasn’t just looked after me but my family too”

My room has pictures, drawn by my nephews, on the walls and photos from home. My mum stays with me every night, in a comfortable recliner chair that turns into a bed, and my 13 year-old daughter is having counselling with the Patient and Family Support Team. Counselling has also been offered to my other family members.

At the hospice, everything’s about giving. You don’t lose anything coming here, you gain a lot.”