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Hospice Voices

Donna & Catriona's story

Donna remembers her mum, Joy, who was cared for on the In-Patient Ward and by the Hospice in the Home team.

“Mum died in 2014, on the In-Patient Ward, of ovarian cancer. She had had breast cancer over 10 years before that and had been in remission. So it felt like a kick in the teeth when she was diagnosed again in 2014. Particularly because ovarian cancer doesn’t have many symptoms, and so mum wasn’t diagnosed until she was almost terminally ill. She had some treatment for a short amount of time, but during this she had some complications which ended with her in Pembury hospital. At this point we were told that no more that could be done, and it was suggested that we contact the Hospice.

Everyone gets these ideas about the dreaded ‘Hospice’ word. They think it’s somewhere you go to get forgotten, or that you just go there at the very end of your life. That just isn’t true.

Mum was told she was terminally ill in the August (of 2013) and by November she was quite unwell, and really not herself – she was behaving quite strangely and we wondered if she might have early onset dementia. It was all getting too much.

Shortly after, mum was admitted to the In-Patient Ward, and stayed for a week. The Hospice team reviewed her medication, and within a day or two she was back to being our mum which was just incredible! She hadn’t been herself for weeks. I can’t tell you what it meant to us to have Mum back.

What struck me the most was the level of care and attention mum was given as soon as we got in the door. It was amazing. It obviously made a huge difference to her but also to my sister Catriona and I. We could relax, knowing she was getting the best possible care.

For example, Mum was admitted in the early afternoon so we’d missed lunch time and she hadn’t eaten anything. But one of the chefs came to her room to see if she wanted anything to eat. I remember him offering anything and everything, and even asking her how she wanted it cooked and prepared. It was above and beyond anything you could expect.

Whilst the care on the In-Patient Ward couldn’t be faulted, mum really missed being home with her cats. They were a big part of her life. Mum had her birthday while she was staying on the Ward so on her birthday, I arrived with the two cats. She had so many visitors that day! The cats attracted a lot of attention and also brought people to see mum. They were so important to her; it was lovely for her to be able to see them.

That week on the ward completely turned mum around, physically and mentally, and she came home afterwards for another 5 or 6 weeks.

Then one weekend, it became apparent that mum was very close to the end of her life. The Hospice in the Home team came out and visited two or three times each day that weekend. They adjusted mum’s medicines and kept her comfortable. Mum came back to the ward first thing on Monday morning. She actually waited until we had all gone home from visiting her before she died. I’d left some flowers for her, and the nurse that was with her laid some of the flowers out by her, and held her hand. Knowing that she didn’t die alone and that she had the best possible care means so much to all of us.

From then on, our family has supported the hospice. We can’t pay the Hospice back for the wonderful care that was given to mum, but we can raise as much money as possible to help. Whenever we do any of our fundraising, I always encourage people to give as much as they can. I say to them ‘every penny makes a difference’. Because it truly does, I can say that because I’ve experienced it."