Alex and Sara Koufalis - A son’s story

“All the staff wanted to know about us as people and to care for Mum as a person, not just as a patient,” explains Alex Koufalis, whose Mum, Sara Koufalis, received support from St Elizabeth Hospice in 2021. (both pictured above when Alex was younger)

“They always asked about my university stuff and were always checking Mum was comfortable, this personal touch really puts you at ease as a family member, especially when you and your loved one are going through such a difficult time in your lives.”

Every year St Elizabeth Hospice delivers free care to over 3,000 patients and their families throughout East Suffolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

Centered on an individual’s needs, the hospice provides specialist support, whenever and wherever it is needed, whether at home, in the community or at the hospice.

Sara Koufalis came under the care of the St Elizabeth Hospice in June 2021, where she received support until her death aged 51-years-old, on 17th July 2021.

After being diagnosed with bowel cancer in March 2020, she received treatment at Ipswich Hospital for a number of weeks before returning home, but as her condition declined she returned to hospital before she was referred to St Elizabeth Hospice for further support.

“When Mum was referred to the hospice, she was initially very worried and feared the worst for what this would mean and didn’t want to go,” said Alex.

“However, as soon as we arrived at the hospice inpatient unit, we were blown away. She had her own private room and bathroom, as well as a television, and lovely views of the hospice garden and pond. The first impressions instantly changed her opinion and the care she received was absolutely perfect for her.

“Every member of staff was so nice to Mum, especially Abi Hensley (Palliative Medicine Registrar at the hospice). Mum and Abi developed a close bond, so much so she was able to help me know Mum’s wishes for when she did pass away.

“This was amazing, as it is such a difficult conversation to have with a loved one, but thanks to Abi we were able to fulfill Mum’s wish to have a woodland burial in Saxmundham.

“It is one of many examples which highlight the bonds the hospice staff create with those under their care – which is so special to see.”

Born and raised in Suffolk, Sara enjoyed a career which had seen her work for the Crown Prosecution Service and more recently, Suffolk County Council.

A family focused person, she loved going on trips and adventures with Alex, visiting many destinations across Europe during holidays, as well as enjoying long walks with Alex and his cockapoo, Bailey.

Alex added: “Mum was a very self-less person. She really was the best mum, always looking to go one step further to make things better for me. Even when she was very ill, she never complained and just wanted to make sure her family were okay.”

To show his thanks for the hospice, Alex raised an amazing £2,175 for the charity by taking part in the 100km London to Brighton Challenge on 27 May 2022, in memory of Sara.

He said: “I can only speak from my perspective but the hospice really provides care for the whole family when you need it most – it is an incredible service.

“Centred around you and your loved one, their support makes a difficult experience much easier. The hospice team went above and beyond for myself Mum, even helping arrange for Dad, who lives in Greece, to visit Mum before she passed away.

“I would encourage anyone who thinks they or their loved one could benefit from the hospice’s services to contact them. They really can make a difference when you need support most.”

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