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‘Mille Grazie’ – A million thanks – That’s what I’d give the hospice

Sheila’s husband Bill spent about six days at the hospice last year before returning home again. Here she shares more about their experience.

“Bill’s been living with cancer for two years now. It’s spread from his prostrate to his spine and other areas. He’d been in hospital twice after having chemotherapy and then after his temperature went way up. When he was in there, Bill was in a lot of pain. Nothing seemed to get it under control and he wasn’t eating. I was really worried.

When Bill came home again, he told me he had a really bad pain in his back. He couldn’t get out of bed, so I phoned St Catherine’s Hospice and spoke to one of the nurses. She said to get him into the hospice.

All the doctors and nurses at the hospice were amazing

I’ve never known medical treatment like Bill had there. He saw a doctor twice a day during his time at the hospice who was marvellous. The doctor arranged blood tests for Bill’s chemo and supplements to help him, and staff were always monitoring him.

Bill had a bedsore during his time in hospital, so the nurses looked after that and they were always going into Bill’s room asking how he was. When he was on a hospital ward, he had nobody to talk too so that was really nice for him.

Bill told me he was so comfortable at St Catherine’s that he didn’t mind being in there

He had his own TV with his headphones, could listen to the radio and pretty, friendly nurses were checking in on him and speaking to him. He loved that!

The hospice was an eye-opener for me

I was a bit anxious about the hospice, but it was an eye-opener for me. I’m 74 and I’ve seen a lot of hospitals during my time, but I’ve never seen care or a hospice like St Catherine’s.

It’s a fabulous place – nice, bright and warm, and I was able to visit Bill every day. Everyone was always so nice, so kind, patient and understanding

Bill had his own private room, a lovely chair next to his bed to sit in, and nurses would encourage him to get out and about. The Occupational Therapist at the hospice gave Bill a Zimmer frame and once he had that he was off – up and down the corridors! During his stay, he was moved into a six bedded ward, but he was next to the window, so it was lovely and bright.

Bill also started looking forward to meals again after not eating during his time in hospital

The food at the hospice was excellent and it was great for me to see him eating again. Bill ate three courses at lunch and dinner, and particularly liked the hospice’s homemade soup – That’s a compliment as Bill loves my own soup. The meals there, proper cooked meals, turned my head, and since coming home again Bill’s continued to eat better. I’m making lots of vegetable soups.

I was asked what I’d like too

At St Catherine’s it was the first time in my life that any medical people said to me “What about you Sheila? What would you like?”And I told them I’d like Bill to get his pain managed and for his pain to be under control

I was once told by a cancer specialist I’d rung for help to give Bill paracetamol and a hot water bottle. I remember getting frustrated and saying he hasn’t got period pain – that kind of thing doesn’t touch the pain you have with cancer.

One of the biggest things was that the hospice did get Bill’s pain under control

Up until then, nobody had been able to get his pain managed and Bill would regularly wake me through the night. The hospice team suggested putting Bill on a long, slow release morphine so his pain didn’t build up overnight and it’s made such a difference.

During his time at St Catherine’s Bill just got better, and better, and better

Everything was there for you at the hospice. There was one time when I arrived for my visit that I found a nurse walking Bill around the lounge and into the Quiet Room. That was lovely for him.

When it was time for Bill to leave St Catherine’s I was a bit nervous

When he’d come out of hospital he was left in pain, with bedsores and we had no help or support. St Catherine’s couldn’t have been more different. Even though Bill’s home now, the nurses and team have continued to help us – It’s been amazing.

The Occupational Therapist visited us at home and measured the house. Before I knew it our house was full of equipment to help make life easier for Bill – a stool for the shower, a Zimmer for him to use indoors, a pressure mattress, a bed that elevates, a pressure cushion. I’ve been astounded at the help – We never expected it but it’s made such a difference

Since Bill’s been home from the hospice he sleeps right through the night. We’re both sleeping better, and I think that’s important, because we wake up feeling refreshed and re-energised for the next day.

The hospice has also helped us get a blue badge for our car and attendance allowance for me. I’ve never had any financial help before, and I just thought wow! I wasn’t expecting that kind of support.

I have confidence knowing I have the hospice’s support

Nurses still phone to check in on us and I have such confidence knowing I have the hospice’s support. Recently, Bill had a pain in his chest and his breathing was shallow. He wanted to call 999, but I rung the hospice and spoke to a nurse and she said, always ring us first.

I know the hospice is there and it’ll be the first port of call when Bill and I need help. It gives me such confidence knowing that

I’m never frightened to phone the hospice to ask for help as I know I’ll get it. Nurses always phone me back and I’m very pleased with them.

I can’t believe the service that we’ve got from the hospice. I don’t know how St Catherine’s does it. I have nothing but praise. The care was so good

I thought that the hospice was a place where people went to die, but I learnt that it’s a lot more than that during Bill’s stay there

Morphine isn’t just something people are given right at the end. I knew about the hospice before we came under its care by word of mouth locally, and we used to do a raffle at work to raise money, but I never knew what they really did there.

Being at St Catherine’s was an eye opening, pleasant experience and it’s very positive to know that someone you love can be there

Thank you feels insufficient for everything the hospice has done – Thank you isn’t enough.

In Italy, they say ‘mille grazie’ – a million thanks – that’s what I’d give the hospice.”

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