“I know what we do at the Hospice is worthwhile but when you’re on the other side of it and you see how your own family is responding, it’s just amazing.”

Sarah Hall has been part of our nursing team for the past 4 years and so knows the extraordinary efforts we make to support families as well as patients.

She said:

“As a nurse, you’re often darting about seeing to everyone, yet you still know you’re making a difference because people are always telling you how much they appreciate what the Hospice is doing for them and how amazing everyone is.”

But the Junior Sister has been given a fresh perspective since becoming a member of one of the families the Hospice is proud to support.

Dad, Mike, was sadly diagnosed with lung cancer in 2021 and Sarah and the family have been by his side throughout his treatment.

This has included an immunotherapy trial that unfortunately resulted in complex side effects, including several fractures to form in the base of Mike’s spine.

Her dad’s worsening pain and discomfort led Sarah to share her concerns with friend and colleague ‘Flic’, whose official title is Dr Felicity Dewhurst, Consultant in Palliative Care at St Oswald’s Hospice.

Flic prescribed a course of painkillers and invited Mike to join the Hospice’s Combined Supportive Care Service delivered by her, alongside her NHS partners – Advanced Physiotherapist, Jen Skipsey, Specialist Occupational Therapist, Jenny Welford, and AHP Associate Practitioner, Emily Rands.

Mike began attending sessions at our Focus on Living Centre, including relaxation sessions to further help with pain management

Sarah said:

“I can’t thank Flic and the team enough. What they did for my dad was amazing.”

Recently, the pain returned with a vengeance – leaving Mike in agony and unable to move.

Subsequent hospital visits uncovered a major fracture in the middle of the back.

After reviewing the most recent scans, Flic recommended Mike should immediately be admitted to the Hospice as he prepared to undergo surgery.

Sarah added:

“Within two weeks, his pain was relatively under control. He could get up, walk and take a shower.”

While as an inpatient at the Hospice, Mike’s other daughter, Bev, turned 40.

Sarah explained such a landmark birthday usually means a family celebration at her parents’ home. But this didn’t feel right when Dad couldn’t be there.

Instead, the Junior Sister spoke to her colleagues in the Adult Inpatient Unit who suggested holding a family birthday party at the Hospice.

The 40th birthday party in the Family Room was enjoyed by everyone who attended, including Mike, his wife, daughters, son-in-law, grandchildren and nephew who travelled from Bournemouth.

The husband, father and grandad participated in all the celebrations, which included time in the garden and a delicious party tea of scones and cakes, prepared by volunteer Eleanor, and a sandwich platter created by the chefs in the Hospice kitchen.

The nursing team who work with Sarah even visited to give a heart-warming rendition of Happy Birthday to Bev – a real highlight of the day.

Sarah added:

“When we left, my brother-in-law said to me, ‘you’re a really close knit group. You can tell you’ve got each other’s backs.’ I know that’s true but from an outsider’s point of view, it was really good to hear.”

For Mike, the efforts the Hospice team went to for his family were greatly appreciated.

“It was brilliant to have everyone there and the food was marvellous. What they did for me and the family was ‘out-of-this-world’.”

– Mike

The experience has confirmed to Sarah the important work the Hospice does to put the families at ease.

She said:

“When you go home, it’s reassuring to know your loved one is in a safe place. My dad tells me, ‘when I press a button, someone comes’. In a hospital, they can’t always do that because they don’t have the resources. He feels safe and so we feel safe.”

The nurse also revealed that her young nieces feel comfortable coming into the Adult Inpatient Unit to visit their grandad.

“My 10-year-old niece describes the Hospice as ‘peaceful’ while my seven-year-old niece says ‘it’s really nice’. They helped decorate the room for their mum’s party and they also love going to see Trevor.”

Trevor being our legendary fish who patrols the fish tank in the Hospice’s reception.

The memorable family birthday party at the Hospice also reminded Sarah how her friends and colleagues go above and beyond for families just like hers in balancing sad times with happy times.

She concluded:

“I know what we do at the Hospice is worthwhile but when you’re on the other side of it and you see how your own family is responding, it’s just amazing.”

If you’d like to support the important work of St Oswald’s Hospice and help local families like Sarah’s, visit our Trail Champion page for ways to get involved, or make a donation here.

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