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Sarah Valentine header 294f39b79 5585 4c61 9abd cceee55fcca7

David's story

As told by his daughter and new volunteer, Sarah...

I am very lucky to come from a close-knit big family and we were all hard-hit when in 2017 my Dad, David Valentine (who turned 50 that year) was told that his life was also abruptly coming to an end. I was 26 and my brother was just 23 - the very same age my Dad was when his Dad died.

After accepting the initial shock of the diagnosis, we were recommended Garden House Hospice Care and for my Dad this was initially a hard thing to hear - unlike most he was familiar with the term ‘hospice’ and he didn’t want to accept that he was at this stage.

My Dad’s journey with the Hospice started around June 2017 as his condition worsened and he lost a lot of weight very suddenly. When he lost a stone within a week, it was clear his condition wasn’t able to be managed by the hospital and my Dad started visiting The Hawthorne Centre for day treatment. There he received pain management, physio strengthening on his legs, and was very thankful for classes that helped with his breathing and sleeping; something that my Dad was struggling with as his condition progressed and his cancer became more painful.

My Dad’s primary cancer was in his stomach lining which was difficult to detect at first and not spotted until secondary cancer was elsewhere but as tumours grew it meant his stomach became very painful and bloated.

My Mum was particularly thankful for the group chats at the Hawthorne Centre where she could also discuss her own feelings and speak with likeminded individuals and families going through the same troubles, as well as talk with and receive advice from professional experts. People don’t like speaking about palliative care and death and for my parents the Hospice made them feel like they were not alone. My Mum called it 'an absolute lifeline’.

Family memories in Snowdonia

One thing my Dad really wanted to do was to ensure our family made memories in the final year of his life, and he was adamant about a holiday to Wales to visit Snowdonia. This trip would not have been possible without the support of Garden House Hospice Care who prepared my Dad, sorting his medication and getting his strength up for the long weekend. They also loaned him a wheelchair so it was easier for us to all get about.

That trip in August 2017, with 19 of us Valentines’, two Labradors and a budgie! (yes really!) is a cherished memory for us all and we know it was only made possible with the high level of care and attention given by Garden House Hospice Care.

"We all always felt understood"

From September onwards, as Dad’s condition deteriorated, we began to rely on the Hospice at Home services, as nurses visited and monitored my Dad, helping my Mum manage his care, medication and pain-relief. They also provided Dad with a hospital bed at home as we prepared for him to move to the Inpatient unit.

When the time came for Dad to move into the Inpatient Unit in October 2017, they couldn’t have done more to make Dad feel at ease. They listened to Dad and us, and we all always felt understood.

Garden House Hospice Care became our home - the kitchen was always full of cake lovingly made by volunteers and there was always someone on hand to make a cup of tea or coffee and lend a sympathetic and understanding ear. The fridge in the kitchen had space for all the patients and the fact Dad was able to have his own food made it feel like a home from home.

We all knew that Dad was in good hands and in the right place. The Hospice knew how to look after him better than anyone else and nothing was too much trouble. Throughout those last weeks we could all come and go as we pleased, spending time with Dad in his private room, enjoying the gardens or all sitting together in the family room playing jigsaws and watching TV. Even the family Labrador Lilly liked to visit! We were all made to feel comfortable and Dad loved having his family by his side and the Hospice team wait on him. The professional support was outstanding and my Dad was especially thankful to Dr Paul Vooght.

Dad told us he didn’t want to die in hospital and Garden House Hospice Care allowed him to pass his final days with dignity and support. My Dad passed away on 14th November 2017 with us all at his bedside and I am forever grateful for the charity’s support and care.

Volunteering

As the ‘Big C’ has been replaced with another ‘Big C’ and the pandemic has threatened the way we live, Garden House Hospice Care continues to support people in death and with life limiting conditions which is why I was very keen to begin volunteering with the charity.

Initially I reached out to volunteer in the Charity’s shop, as I found myself working reduced hours in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic. Unfortunately, it swiftly hit the charity sector too, closing all ‘non-essential’ retail which are so essential to fundraising and as I couldn’t volunteer in my local Garden House Hospice Care shop I still wanted to help remotely. Volunteers are essential to the charity and in these tough times have kept the charity functioning. It’s also great to be working alongside so many passionate and caring people and feeling like I am making a difference to the community.

To join Sarah in volunteering at Garden House Hospice Care, take a look at our current opportunities.

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