‘The people at the hospice feel like family’

John Stewart was looked after by our Care at Home team and spent several weeks on the hospice Inpatient Unit before he died. His wife, Beryl, talks about the family’s experience of St Wilfrid’s and why she now returns to our Street Café every week.

‘John had been poorly for two years with lung cancer, which resulted in him having part of his lung removed. The doctors thought that was it, but it came back again. He had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but eventually there was nothing more they could do, and that’s when we first had contact with St Wilfrid’s and their palliative care team.

‘For a few months, John remained at home, but he was in so much pain that I had to call the hospice’s 24-hour Nurse Line and ask their community nurses to visit all the time. They’d give him morphine and tell me what to give him, but I was so frightened that I would give the wrong dose.

‘We felt very lucky when a bed became available on the hospice Inpatient Unit. I hadn’t been in the hospice before. In fact, when I drove past, I thought to myself ‘I wouldn’t like to go in there’. But I now know I was wrong, and from the day he went in, John said he was treated like a guest in a hotel.

‘He was so happy in St Wilfrid’s and was always telling me how wonderful the staff were, but it didn’t stop me feeling guilty that I wasn’t looking after him at home. However, I knew the hospice was the best place to get his pain under control, and it was a relief for me and our sons, Trevor and Mark, when he was admitted.

‘John would always talk about all the staff, from the doctors and nurses to the people that brought his food round and the cleaners. He was as happy as he could be under the circumstances.

‘I remember when Nurse Ruth took me aside on the day that John was really poorly to talk about what was coming. She was so kind and loving, and it just made it so much easier. When I see Ruth now, she often gives me a hug or a wave. So does Healthcare Assistant Ofelia, who was also brilliant when John was poorly. I’ll never forget how she stayed with me all the time and looked after me, as well as John.

‘The people at the hospice feel like a family; it’s like I’ve known them all my life. They’re lovely, absolutely brilliant, and I love coming back to the hospice café with friends every week. I feel at peace because it’s like a part of John is here.

‘I also look forward to when his friends in Wealden Brass visit the hospice. John enjoyed playing tuba in the band and they made a special visit to play to him when he was on the Inpatient Unit, a tradition that has carried on every Christmas since.

‘John was a lovely man who always put his family first. He did everything for us, and he was such a kind and gentle man. He idolised our two boys and loved our grandchildren. We’d been together for 61 years when he died, so losing him was like having my arm cut off.

‘Without the hospice, I don’t know how we would have coped, because they were absolutely brilliant. As a family, we try to give back to them whenever we can. We have a leaf on the memory tree in the hospice café, play the hospice lottery and take part in various fundraising events. A highlight is the Starlight Stroll, and last year it fell on our wedding anniversary. I laid my lantern in The Italian Gardens alongside a picture of our wedding day, and it was lovely, but emotional.’

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