“St Catherine’s was like a big duvet”
In June 2022 Karen’s Dad Pete was admitted to our hospice. Here she shares how we supported her Dad and family.
“My Dad Pete was brilliant
He was a strong man who coped with a lot from an early age. Dad was a manager of a local car garage before becoming a milkman. He enjoyed his work and loved meeting and chatting with people. He became friends with lots of his customers and would do anything for anyone.
He picked up food shops for some elderly customers and once took someone’s dog to the vet.
Dad’s love of helping the community carried on even after he retired as a milkman, as he then got a job as a caretaker at a local primary school. He worked at the school for over five years. Even whilst backward and forward to hospital for appointments and treatments he never wanted to miss a day! Dad absolutely loved working at the school, and the staff adored him.
I didn’t really appreciate how great or beautiful he was until he died. A lot of people told me how much he meant to them at his funeral. Many even said he was like a second Dad to them. It made me think how lucky I am that he’s my Dad and I’m so proud of him.
Dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2020 just before lockdown
He had chemotherapy treatments and surgeries but eventually was told the cancer was terminal and spreading. Dad was never one to give up so when he had the option to start another final round of chemo he went for it, but unfortunately it made him very ill.
We were caring for him at home, but it got to the stage where his pain medication wasn’t enough. Seeing him in pain was awful. We felt bad that we couldn’t take his pain away, so were glad when Dad got a bed at the hospice.
St Catherine’s was a familiar name as my kids had sung Christmas carols there and my husband Phil, who’s a paramedic, knew the hospice from his work.
I didn’t know what to expect but from the moment our family walked through the door to our exit the whole team was fantastic and supportive.
It surprised me how friendly and down to earth everyone was
Dad arrived at the hospice over the Jubilee weekend in June.
The first thing we saw when we came in was bunting and lots of cake. It was lovely as it was a reminder that normality carries on.
Nothing was ever too much trouble
The week Dad arrived volunteers were starting to come back as coronavirus restrictions eased and they were all so kind, offering us tea and coffee. Kitchen staff made us sandwiches and the chef even came out to check our sandwiches were right.
While Dad was here, we were able to stay with him day and night sleeping in big, easy chairs by his bed. Sometimes he’d wake up in the night in pain, but he knew we were there.
Dad stuck around for Father’s Day and we celebrated as a family
My three brothers live in London, South Korea and Crawley. My daughter and I had two of my brothers (one in South Korea and one at home ill with covid) on our phones.
We hung some bunting and got Dad presents, cards and his favourite liquorice allsorts and wine gum sweets. Dad liked a whiskey and lemonade, so we had some cans of that that we put on his lips. We all toasted him with whiskey and lemonade too. It was lovely.
Despite Dad being at the hospice during covid our whole family got to spend as much time as we wanted with him thanks to allocated visiting slots
Dad’s 3 year old great granddaughter, who he idolised visited, my mum was allowed to bring their puppy into visit, and the Headteacher from the school Dad worked at visited him on several occasions.
My cousin, who’s also a paramedic, would finish his night shift and come to visit Dad early. We chatted when everything was quiet, and it was quality time with my cousin and Dad. I hadn’t had that for a long time, but that’s what the hospice does. They give you time because they take care of everything else. After being together with Dad at the hospice it’s brought our family closer.
For my brother who lives away in South Korea and my brother who was ill with covid we’d have them on the phone with us for hours. It meant they were still involved, they could see and speak to Dad and hear everything that was going on surrounding his care.
The team did all they could to make Dad comfortable and peaceful and knowing he was getting the right help was such a relief
It took the pressure off our family. It was calming to know he was in the best possible hands, and it was so comforting to see how well he was treated.
At home we’d all been doing our best to look after Dad but there was a lot of heightened emotion, and we’d sometimes argue which didn’t help him.
Coming to St Catherine’s felt like a ‘duvet day’. It was like a big duvet being wrapped around us – the place is soft and caring.
I didn’t realise I’d end up saying goodbye to Dad at the hospice
He initially only came to St Catherine’s for pain management but when Dad died the day after Father’s Day. Phil, my Mum and brother and I were with him. I’d never seen anyone die before and it felt horrible seeing Dad taking his final few breaths. Phil told me it was a peaceful and nice death compared to many he’s seen in his job. I’m glad he witnessed it as it made me realise Dad’s death wasn’t as awful as I thought.
St Catherine’s became my home for two weeks and after Dad died, I’d drive by and feel I wanted to come back but as time’s gone on that’s faded.
After Dad died, I got a letter from the hospice offering me emotional support for up to five years too. That’s amazing as grief is up and down, it’s like waves. Sometimes you can think of the happy times, other times you’ll be in tears.
It’s surprising hospices aren’t fully Government funded as they do such a fantastic job
They need everyone’s help and support. I’m so grateful for the care Dad and our family had.
You don’t appreciate it until you experience it yourself, but the hospice makes you feel part of a family. The care Dad had was an extension of what we were doing for him at home, but it felt even more special as it was given by people who didn’t know him.”
If you would like us to help more families like Pete’s please consider making a donation online or by calling 01293 447361. Your support allows us to provide care to more people when it’s needed most – thank you.