“In the worst days, they brought light”

News and Blog

Johnny and Alex Donnelly-Palmer from Epsom are gearing up, alongside 32 others, to trek the Great Wall of China to raise money for St Catherine’s. Here, Johnny shares why they’re taking on the challenge.

“My dad John was given pain relief at St Catherine’s Hospice in 2012 in his fight with oesophagus cancer. None of us knew then that his days at the hospice would be some of his last.

The hospice provided me and my husband Alex with support and comfort whilst Dad was receiving care and members of my family have continued to use their services like counselling since. In fact, I’ve been so moved by the care Dad received I now volunteer with St Catherine’s as a student counsellor.

During Dad’s illness St Catherine’s staff were extraordinary. Their care and attention to detail was so personal. As well as making Dad as comfortable as possible they welcomed our whole family with open arms. St Catherine’s became our second home and the incredible staff were always there with a cup of tea and a shoulder to cry on. I’ve never forgotten how after one unplanned and extremely restless night at the hospice, a nurse managed to find toiletries and makeup for my Mum so she could face Dad in the morning with a courageous smile. Those personal touches are what got us through, and it’s hard to put into words the quality of care and support we received during the hardest time of our lives. In a time of heightened emotions and anticipation of loss, everyone at the hospice was so supportive and friendly, from the receptionists to the volunteers in the café and the ward staff. In the worst days, they brought light.

As well as looking after Dad in the hospice, St Catherine’s helped him achieve his final wish of dying at home surrounded by his family. They made sure he was comfortable in the transition from St Catherine’s to home and got him there with just seven precious hours to spare.

Alex and I signed up to St Catherine’s China Trek in memory of my Dad who would have been 60 last October and to support them in their amazing work. We wanted to help raise funds so the hospice can care for other local terminally ill people like they did for Dad.

It also seemed a good challenge to sign up to with 14 months until departure. Now with around a month to go I’m not sure there’s still that feeling! In all seriousness, China sounded like a once in a lifetime opportunity that we simply couldn’t turn down. It’s also a great chance for us to give something back to a charity that’s done so much for our family, and continues to do so much. As well as walking in memory of my Dad, Alex will be turning 40 during the trek so it’s going to be a really special trip.

The physical preparation has definitely been the hardest part. Knowing that the hospice relies on people like us raising money to provide its vital services keeps us motivated. We did St Catherine’s Midnight Walk in 2017 so we’re not new to fundraising but the China Trek is definitely stepping things up a gear! We know my Dad would have been so proud of us though, and in the toughest moments that’s the thing that’ll keep us going.”

You can help more people, like John, receive the care they need and deserve today. Please donate to St Catherine’s Hospice here and ensure no one has to face death and loss alone.