“The hospice saved our family”
Jan’s Dad Derek was diagnosed with a terminal illness during the first lockdown last year. Thanks to our community’s support, our team was able to help and support him and his family. Here Jan shares the difference this made.
“My Dad Derek was a popular, family man, but he was very humble
So I don’t think he ever realised just how popular he was. Dad had a quiet intelligence. He was very funny, and was always laughing. I couldn’t have asked for a better Dad.”
In April 2020 Derek was told that he had advanced lung cancer by phone
“The news came from a consultant he’d never even met, and we were offered no follow-up or support after his diagnosis,” recalls Jan, “I’m not knocking the NHS – I’m a huge supporter of it. I work for a GP surgery myself, but our family felt abandoned and lockdown made everything about Dad’s illness a difficult and traumatic process.”
Unfortunately, Derek’s health deteriorated quickly
“He was taken to hospital by ambulance at least four times and we weren’t able to be with him because of COVID,” explains Jan.
“My brother was helping my Mum care for Dad at home, but things were really difficult. Our family desperately needed help and support, but we just didn’t know what to do”
That was when Jan looked at St Catherine’s website and asked her Dad’s GP for a referral
“Soon after, the hospice got in touch,” says Jan. “Nurses helped sort Dad’s medication and gave Mum and my brother tips on caring for Dad at home over the phone. They were angels, looking after all of us.”
Derek’s health continued to deteriorate and after he fell out of bed one night the hospice arranged for a nurse to visit
“Mum told me how a nurse went to Dad, who was in bed, in full PPE. She knelt by the side of his bed and took hold of his hand. She said, “You’ve been feeling a bit poorly haven’t you?” and gently suggested that, perhaps Dad might like to go into the hospice. He said yes. Up until that point he’d been resistant, but the nurse was so kind and gentle with him
Dad going into the hospice was an immense relief for our family – it saved our sanity as it’d been so difficult struggling on alone.”
Before her Dad arrived at St Catherine’s Jan says she’d heard it was a “lovely place”, but she didn’t know what to expect
“Everyone was so kind and welcoming. Smiling receptionists asked how we were, and the volunteer screeners who gave us PPE and took our temperatures each time we visited became like friends.
From the day Dad went to St Catherine’s, it was just like being enveloped in a hug
The hospice had a homely atmosphere. We took in photos for Dad’s room, he had his iPod to play his music, and lots of personal bits and pieces.
We felt like we were in a bubble being cared for and we didn’t need to worry about anything anymore”
Jan hadn’t been able to see her Dad through lockdown because of her work in a doctor’s surgery so spending time with him at the hospice was especially precious
“I was so scared Dad would die without me saying goodbye.
At the hospice I saw him every day – I could sit with him, hold his hands, help feed him, and listen to his music. I hadn’t been able to do that for three months so those last two weeks were so precious. St Catherine’s gave me my Dad back”
Jan even has lovely memories of the day her Dad died
“Dad died on a Monday – the 15 June. We’d been taking turns to sit with him, but it was a beautiful summers day.
At 1pm nurses served my Mum, brother and me a wonderful lunch in the hospice gardens and told us they’d sit with Dad while we ate it. We sat outside in the garden listening to the birds, chatting and eating lunch knowing Dad was being well looked after
His room looked out onto the garden, and I like to think he was looking out onto the sky. That day was awful because we lost Dad but even then, I still have lovely memories.
The hospice really did make Dad’s death the best they could. They made the unbearable a little more bearable.”
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