At St Elizabeth Hospice it is our privilege to stand beside our patients as they come to terms with their diagnosis and as we develop the individual support plan they will need. Through medicine and therapy we restore hope, we ease pain, we give life purpose and we make life liveable at time when the prospect of a normal life can seem a distant prospect.
Below are four patient stories that illustrate different ways we can help and demonstrate that together we will not let the prospect of death kill life for those living in Suffolk.
John was 90 when he was first referred to the hospice by his renal nurse at Ipswich hospital.
As John lives with a variety of medical conditions which include: heart disease and kidney failure, the hospital knew that the hospice was the best place to support his ongoing health needs.
Every two weeks he is transported, door-to-door by the hospice’s volunteer drivers and is cared for by the day services team where he can talk to a nurse or a healthcare assistant about how his health has been over the intervening weeks. He can also see a doctor if needed.
From these discussions, the ways of supporting John are assessed and any adjustments to his care are made. These can include: changes to prescriptions about which the hospice clinicians can communicate directly to John’s GP, resulting in his correct medications being ready for collection when he returns home.
Whilst John is in day services, he can also access relaxation classes in the gym and meditation provided by the therapy team.
John says that he didn’t know what to expect of his care at St Elizabeth Hospice when he first visited but that he was made to feel “most welcome. I found I could relax. My wife Jean is able to have a break and some peace of mind, knowing that I am being cared for.”
At 91 years old John recently abseiled down the side of Ipswich Hospital, raising over £1000 for St Elizabeth Hospice. “I find it difficult to do nothing” John explains, “I may be a patient but that doesn’t mean that I cannot do some fundraising does it?”
Ian began his chemotherapy treatment for renal cancer and a secondary neck tumour at which point he also received a letter for an outpatient’s appointment with a hospice consultant.
With his consultant, Ian began to find ways to overcome the problems facing him. He was prescribed medication which helped with the down sides he experienced with the chemotherapy. The visits really helped him and his wife cope as their life had been on hold as they tried to deal with the impact and the treatment of the disease.
When he started listening to what he was being told, he realised the severity of his condition but also how the hospice could actually help him. They looked at his situation holistically and offered advice and care for both of them.
Ian’s consultant also suggested complementary therapies without which he doesn’t think he’d be controlling his pain management. Ian explores and experiences reflexology, physiotherapy and mindfulness.
Through these ongoing outpatient appointments, he has space and time to talk; be listened to and really focus on what can work for him. Ian likes that his appointments keep it all joined together and look beyond the specific details of his cancer and its treatments.
He is offered ideas, choices and guidance which he wouldn’t otherwise have thought of.
Ian said “I find that I can unload anything that is worrying me and openly discuss the reality of my situation. Over time I have stopped looking at trying to ‘get back to the way things were’ and I have accepted ‘the new normality’ of my life to come.”
Ian has become far more confident in himself and he has now started to do many things again, like going abroad for holidays something he and his wife wouldn’t have thought would have been possible.
David came into the care of the hospice after being diagnosed with a liver tumour when 52 years old.
Having previously lived a very active and healthy lifestyle, and with no family history of cancer, this came as a real blow as he was forced very quickly to take early retirement from his role as a Suffolk primary school teacher. It was at this point that St Elizabeth Hospice was told about him by the hospital and the next thing he knew was a community nurse specialist made contact with him.
The nurse makes regular visits to David who lives in rural East Suffolk and listens to him and uses her extensive experience to explain expectations. She also liaises with the district nurse; meets with his GP every week and sorts out pain relief using her specialist knowledge. This help and support has gradually enabled David to feel positive again and to be seen in his own home.
A key turning point for David came when the nurse spotted his need for some kind of outlet for self-expression. As a teacher, David had always done lots of art with the children at school but never for himself. She put him in touch with the hospice art therapist. They meet regularly and David soon discovered that it really is a form of self-expression for him, especially when his emotions were all over the place.
David was also referred to the family support team; who have really helped him to deal with the emotional side of his illness. David reveals: “These counselling sessions are so useful to me. I feel cared for as the whole person that I am, not just as a patient with metastatic colon cancer. I no longer feel isolated.”
Toni was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer at 43 years old. During her oncology consultation she was referred to St Elizabeth Hospice, for pain management and palliative care.
Toni came to have a look around as part of an outpatient appointment. She needed direction and guidance even though she knew there was no ‘right’ way. After that initial visit Toni came to the hospice regularly as she saw it as a safe place where her questions were answered. She was allowed to question everything and was given answers which provided reassurance.
As a former nurse used to caring for others, the role of patient was difficult for Toni however when the need came for her to come to the hospice from hospital, once she needed to be an inpatient, it made her finally feel safe.
For Toni, having continuity was important – the consultant she saw at the hospital was the same one who looked after her in the inpatient unit at the hospice. She recalled: “I was told that there was a bed for me on a Thursday and the very next day I was comfortably tucked in, with my cat who was allowed to visit. It is as if we were at home.”
Toni soon discovered the impeccably-kept hospice garden. She loved it there, calling it “unbelievable.” There are plenty of fish in the pond; raised flower beds for patients to access and the summerhouse, hidden in the corner for patients, family and friends to inhabit.
Since experiencing the care Toni and her family decided that they wanted to raise money to support the hospice; as thanks for the support they received. They wanted to ensure that others may benefit as Toni did.