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Garden House Hospice Care Sarah s story in the Hospice Garden

Sarah’s story

When my Dad, David Valentine was diagnosed with stage four cancer in January 2017 it felt as if history was cruelly repeating itself for our family. My Dad lost his father just two months before I was born in 1991. My Grandad Douglas Valentine was only 50 and never got to meet any of his grandchildren, cancer sadly took that away from him.

I am very lucky to come from a close-knit big family and we were all hard-hit when in 2017 my Dad (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 at Lister Hospital, we were recommended Garden House Hospice 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 GHH 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 starting 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’.

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 GHH who prepared my Dad sorting his medication, strengthening him with steroids 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 GHH.

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

My Mum says of this time “I could phone them day or night and they would ask if I wanted them to come round”.

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.

GHH 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, they 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 GHH 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 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.

As the ‘Big C’ has been replaced with another ‘Big C’ and the pandemic has threatened the way we live, Garden House Hospice continues to support people in death.

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