When people think of the word ‘Hospice’, they immediately think of a place of doom and gloom, where people go to end their days. But St Elizabeth Hospice, and the care provided by their staff, is very far away from that idea.
When Amy Graham met Ryan in March 2012, they immediately hit it off. But, tragically, Ryan was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer soon afterwards.
Things then happened very quickly for the couple. Less than a year after meeting, Ryan decided to ask Amy to marry him, proposing to her with a Haribo ring.
Mother of two Amy, 30, of Needham Market, said: “The very next day we went into town and picked a proper ring, so it was very romantic. I’ve still got the Haribo ring: I put it in the box my real ring came in.”
The couple, racing against Ryan’s illness, planned their wedding in just six weeks, marrying in May 2013. Their first contact with St Elizabeth Hospice came shortly afterwards; on her GP’s suggestion, Amy contacted OneCall, the Hospice’s 24-hour advice line, for help managing Ryan’s pain. Clinical Nurse Specialist Pip Davies from the Hospice at Home team went straight to them; this visit was the first time the couple became aware the Hospice even existed.
Hospice at Home nurses continued to visit Ryan to help manage his medication, and he was admitted to the Hospice on two occasions for medication review and respite care. However, Ryan wished to remain at home, and the Hospice at Home team made sure this was possible for him.
Amy said “Without the Hospice at Home team, it would have been completely impossible for Ryan to have his wishes and be at home. Ryan used to call them ‘angels in disguise’.”
Ryan died on Tuesday 20th August 2013, aged just 32.
“We started a St Elizabeth Tribute Fund in Ryan’s name” said Amy. “It lets us keep track of how much we’ve been able to raise, and serves as a wonderful way of honouring Ryan’s memory.”
“Ryan wanted the Tribute Fund to be set up as a way to say thank you for all the help we got from the Hospice; you can only buy the staff so many boxes of chocolate or bunches of flowers, and he wanted to say thank you in a way that would help make a real difference.”
Amy’s original goal was to raise £10,000 by the first anniversary of Ryan’s death, but smashed this target after just nine months. Her 22-strong team of Ryan’s Angels took part in the Midnight Walk 2014, raising almost £5,000.
Amy said: “It was great to take part in the Midnight Walk and see hundreds of fellow Hospice supporters taking to the streets to show their support for local Hospice care.”
Ryan’s Tribute Fund has now raised more than £14,000, but Amy isn’t done fundraising yet. At the end of October, she’s flying out to the Sahara for a week-long fundraising challenge with a group of ten fellow supporters. They will trek through the inhospitable desert for four days, before volunteering for two days at the Daralbir Association, a charitable home for elderly hospital patients.
Carrie Chipperfield, Individual Giving Fundraiser at St Elizabeth Hospice, said: “Amy has become a fantastic supporter of the Hospice. Not only has she raised an incredible amount of money, she’s become a passionate advocate of our services.
“Our goal is to provide Hospice care wherever it is needed, not just confined to a single building. We strive to meet the individual needs of our patients, wherever and whenever they arise.
“I’m thrilled that Amy is taking on the Sahara trekking challenge and that she’s helping to spread hospice care everywhere by volunteering at the Daralbir Association as well.”
You can sponsor Amy on her Sahara trek by clicking here
To read Amy and Ryan’s full story, click here