Paul, 34, from Felixstowe, is living with rectal cancer; he recalls his admission to the inpatient unit at St Elizabeth Hospice:
“I was nervous, really nervous, as I thought it was a place to die. But when I was shown into side room 5 I thought, ‘Blimey, I’ve been in worse hotels than this!’ I felt really chuffed with the TV and the en-suite.”
“I’d been in the hospital with a urinary tract infection; whilst I was there, their palliative care team mentioned St Elizabeth hospice and that they could make a referral for me, if I wanted.
“Once I’d read the brochure they gave me, it helped to dispel the myth about what the place is about; I soon realised that there is so much more which is offered by the hospice.”
On returning home from the hospital, Paul was in a lot of pain; it was during this time that he made the decision to be admitted:
“I thought that the hospice would be able to help me with my pain management; I was right, they did. The doctors came around and started to get it under control straight away.”
Having got his pain under control, Paul was then discharged for a couple of weeks; he was able to go back home to his wife, Camilla, and two young daughters: Elexa, aged 9 and Estelle, 7. It was Paul who re-admitted himself, as he said:
“I was in far too much pain; it wasn’t fair on the kids to see me like that.”
Now Paul is comfortably back, in a different side room this time. He feels much happier:
“It doesn’t feel like a hospice at all; more like a hotel with lovely chairs in the rooms; a lovely clean ward and a beautiful garden – I was really surprised when I opened the door and it led onto this really nice garden. It is where I enjoyed the last of the summer and the changing colours of autumn. I would often have my lunch outside.”
Paul recognises that it has taken a while to get his current level of pain under control: “we just need to work on the afternoons when the earlier medications are wearing off. The doctors are looking at how to balance things to help me.”
It is not just Paul who is feeling more comfortable in St Elizabeth Hospice:
“My girls love it here, especially the playhouse here in the garden and the playroom in the ward. They come here a lot, they are happy to visit; there’s so much more to do than just playing with my bed.
“Here it means that Camilla and the girls can stay together so it is less stressful for us all. Even our dog, Dolce, is able to come to visit me!”
When at St Elizabeth Hospice, Paul’s daughters are familiar figures to many:
“The girls often ‘help’ on Reception, particularly when volunteer, Kevin Constance is on duty. He lets them sign people in; they especially enjoyed signing in their grandparents for a visit on one occasion!”
Paul loves it when Elexa and Estelle come back from their roaming with tales to share with him; he listens to them explaining what they have been up to and where members of the domestic team have accompanied them – their favourite is the sensory room with its coloured lights in the day services’ corridor.
“They are well-known here and that makes me feel good that as soon as they walk in the door, they are known by people; it makes their visits more friendly and home-like. Most importantly, it means that they visit more often and for longer than they would do ordinarily.
Friday night take-aways
“Weekend visits are really important, especially Friday nights which is when we often pick up a take-away: Chinese or a kebab to enjoy in my room together, much as we would do if I was at home. After eating, we watch TV together; we are able to replicate what we’d do at home.
“We go out of the ward and visit other parts of the hospice and its grounds; we do homework and the physios come to see me”
Having smoked all his life, Paul allows himself one cigarette at the end of each day at 10pm:
“I’m surprised that there is a smoking room here; I am generally the only one in there at that time of the evening but it gives me the chance to relax and enjoy my one cigarette.”
It is all about these little details.
With a little help from my friends
Many of Paul’s friends are now fundraising for St Elizabeth Hospice; his cousin’s partner is participating in the winter Santa run at Trinity Park and a friend who works for Amaro Signalling is now donating the proceeds from scrap metal, having already presented cheques for £420, £280 and £400 and will continue to support the hospice in this way as, after visiting Paul, he declared it to be “Absolutely brilliant!”