“My wife, Barbara, first become ill back in 2002. She was in and out of hospital around twice a year, for many years, but it wasn’t until 2016 that we finally found out what her diagnosis was.
“Barbara was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that was affecting her liver. At this stage, Barbara was ill all year round. It was in December 2016 that the hospital told us that Barbara’s illness was terminal, and unfortunately, we didn’t have much time with her before she passed away.
“As soon as we found out that Barbara only had a few days to live, we instantly asked to leave the hospital and return home. However, Barbara was so unwell that the Hospital staff advised us not to go home. Luckily, we knew that St Clare was our local hospice, as we have been playing their Lottery for years! So, I immediately asked the hospital’s palliative care team if they could help us get referred to the Hospice.
“Once a room soon become available on St Clare Inpatient Unit, we got the call to say that Barbara could stay at the Hospice. We settled Barbara into her room that very same afternoon!
“When we arrived at St Clare, Barbara was unable to move or communicate with us; she was not able to open her eyes very much at this stage. Even after seeing Barbara like this, I could still tell that she felt relief when she arrived at the Hospice. It was as if a weight had lifted from not only Barbara’s, but the whole family’s, shoulders.
“When Barbara did occasionally open her eyes, it was lovely for her to be able to look out the window and see the birds in the Hospice gardens. The atmosphere was just so relaxed. The peace that St Clare gave us was just what Barbara and the family needed.
“One thing that I will never forget about Barbara’s stay at St Clare is when our dog, Charlie, came to visit her in her room! Although Barbara was not able to move or communicate with us very much, when we brought Charlie in to see her she managed to move her arm and stroke his head!
“The care that St Clare provides is absolutely brilliant, tailoring their care to each individual’s needs. It was just such a relief to be with people that cared and listened to you. It truly was a breath of fresh air. The doctors and nurses spend so much time caring for each and every patient, and there is no sense of rushing. Nothing is ever too much trouble.
“Sadly, Barbara died the following day after staying with St Clare, however, within that short period of time, we felt like the Hospice was our home away from home.
“We have a big family and we were all here at St Clare, with Barbara. Some of us went home one the night she stayed, and then came back the following morning. Others decided to stay the night – we could do as we pleased. Knowing that we could make our own teas and coffees, and prepare meals as and when we wanted to, meant that we didn’t have to keep coming and going – we could just be at St Clare with Barbara.
“Barbara died in December 2016, and it just so happened that the St Clare Light up a Life service was on that same month. It was hard coming back to St Clare so soon after Barbara died, but because of the care we received, it felt as though she was part of St Clare – and the hospice has now become part of our family.
“It is nice to be at Light up a Life with other people who have had similar experiences. You can see that everyone is having their own personal thoughts, and reminiscing about previous times they have had with their loved ones. No one has to say anything, you just understand. Although we all deal with loosing someone in different ways, we’ve all still been through it and have a of understanding and togetherness with people. There is a real sense of community, which is why my family and I come back every year.
“Barbara was such a caring lady, who did so many amazing things in her life to help other people. She was a nurse, working with children and premature babies, and also children that had learning difficulties. I come back to St Clare at Light Up a Life to remember and celebrate those parts of her life.
“I know that Barbara would also love the fact that my family and I are still so involved with helping to raise money for St Clare. We still play the Lottery, and often host quiz nights and boots sales to help raise vital funds. My son, Daniel, has also taken on a range of challenges to help raise money – including climbing Kilimanjaro!
“We will continue to hold fundraising events and take on challenges to help raise money for St Clare, because if we can help the Hospice to look after other families like they did for us, then it is all worth it.
“Losing someone you love is such a difficult chapter in anyone’s life, so anything we can do to help others, we will.
“I would encourage everyone who is unsure about hospice care to come to St Clare and see what an amazing place it really is. If I wasn’t already aware of St Clare, I wouldn’t have asked the hospital staff to refer us. All I can say is that I am so thankful that we did, and I just want other families to know so they can benefit from St Clare in the way that we did.”