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"The ending he wanted"

Mark and Debbie's Story

On the day Mark died, his eyes came alive like the bluest blue. We were playing his favourite song, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and as soon as Mark heard it, he put his arms out, opened his eyes wide, smiled the biggest smile and took his last breath. Mark was at home, just where he wanted to be, and that was made possible by the generous supporters of St Wilfrid’s Hospice.

Mark and I met at work. We were both in banking and very soon after we fell in love, going on to spend 14 happy years together with our blended family of my son Sam and Mark’s daughter, Emma.

At the end of 2020, Mark had been feeling under the weather for a while but as we were in the middle of the pandemic, he put it down to that. When he developed a pain under his rib cage, he thought it was from our new puppy bouncing on him. Doctors didn’t think it was anything serious, until his abdomen swelled up making him look nine months pregnant.

That’s when we found out he had stage four cancer of the liver. He was 59 years old and it was heartbreaking for both of us. We’d only lost his sister, Jane, the year before, so doctors carried out tests which showed he had a hemochromatosis – a genetic disorder which causes problems including liver damage. It’s a hereditary condition and probably what killed Jane as well.

It was March 2021 and we hoped Mark would have a few months to live. He managed two. After suffering a blood clot on his brain, Mark said he wanted to die at home. I had to honour that, even though nursing the man I loved and watching him die was going to be really harrowing.

When he came home from a stay in hospital, the St Wilfrid’s Hospice team arrived. It felt like someone was putting their arms around me and saying ‘it's okay, we're taking this journey with you. You know you can ask us anything anytime’.

I felt so supported. The hospice’s 24-hour Nurse Line became my lifeline because seeing Mark in pain and feeling anxious, and my having to administer morphine to him, was difficult. I wasn't sleeping and was worried I would get the doses mixed up. The Care at Home Team gave me the reassurance that they were not just looking after him, but they were looking after me too and taking me through the stages. And I still remember their kindness to this day.

When Mark got anxious, the nurses reassured him, and it really helped him. They showed me how I could help him if he needed lifting and they would sit and talk to me, which made a huge difference because I was running on autopilot.

The way the nurses dealt with him, the humour, and the fact that they made him feel like a person and not a dying man was incredible. They took such good care of him, and the way they talked to him is something I will never forget. He died at home with dignity, with Emma and me by his side.

I don't think I could have got through the time that followed Mark’s death without the continued support of the hospice. After a few weeks, I applied for counselling. My counsellor was phenomenal, and because he didn’t have a link to Mark or me, I could be totally honest.

The St Wilfrid’s Hospice team was right there by our sides from the minute we needed them. I wanted Mark to go into the hospice, but I couldn’t go against his wishes and now I'm so glad he did die at home because he had the ending he wanted.

I’m sharing my story as I want other people to be able to have the same incredible help as I did in my family’s time of need. But it's so expensive to run the hospice and I know the only reason we had that help is thanks to kind people in our local community who provide the majority of the hospice’s funding. I hope that people reading this will consider donating to St Wilfrid’s to ensure more local people can get the support they need at the most difficult time of their lives.

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Father and daughter at graduation

Your support makes all the difference

The local community provides 70% of our funding, and with rising costs it is a struggle for the hospice to ensure that we can provide patients with our expert care in the comfort of their own homes. Times are hard for many; whatever you are able to give, your gift could make all the difference to patients who would like to spend their final days at home, and we are extremely grateful.

£25 could be enough to provide reassurance to someone making difficult decisions about their end of life care by covering the cost of a first visit from the St Wilfrid's team.

£42 could help us to reach patients by keeping our car on the road for a morning.

£63 could help someone avoid a hospital admission by providing the gloves, masks, cannulas and catheters we need to care for them at home.

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