Christmas is a time for family and friends to be together, sharing in the magic of the festive period. Every year, St Elizabeth Hospice provides vital care for hundreds of patients and their families living with progressive and life-limiting illnesses across East Suffolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney.
In 2022, once again, the independent Suffolk charity is hosting its annual Christmas appeal, Be a Star, which encourages the community to support the hospice during this very special time of year.
From purchasing items such as Christmas cards, from St Elizabeth Hospice shops or online store, to taking part in the fundraising Christmas Day Dip or volunteering time to help the hospice. There are a number of ways to take part in the Be a Star appeal and each one makes a vital contribution to supporting the hospice in making Christmas time a special time for those receiving its care this year.
One person who is familiar to the support given by St Elizabeth Hospice at Christmas, is hospice patient Jess Kelly and her family.
“The biggest difference the St Elizabeth Hospice staff made to me, was helping me get home to spend Christmas with my little boy and my family, when at times I just didn’t think it would be possible,” explained Jess Kelly, 39-years-old.
“At all times they gave reassurance and person focused care which is so vital when you are living through periods of such uncertainty, but most of all they made sure my family and I could be together at Christmas.”
Jess, who works in reinsurance, moved to Hadleigh in 2012 with her husband Vince, where the couple still live, now with their six-year-old son, Tobias.
After previously going into remission in 2019, from breast cancer, Jess was re-diagnosed with the disease in October 2021, when tests revealed it had returned and spread to her bones as well. Following support from Ipswich Hospital, she came under the care of St Elizabeth Hospice in November 2021 where she received support on the hospice’s inpatient unit in Ipswich.
She explained: “The hospice were brilliant and understanding, helping me get ready for each day, administrating medication and making sure I was comfortable.
“From the start of process I told the hospice team I wanted to be back at home for Christmas, which is an extra special time for my family as my birthday is Christmas Eve and my son, Tobias, has his birthday on Christmas Day itself.
“I am the Christmas person in the family, making sure the decorations go up as soon as I can and ensuring our house is ready for Christmas and all the celebrations that come with it. The importance of Christmas has only increased with Tobias’ birthday and he always says to me that he must be ‘extra special as he was born on Christmas Day’.”
During Jess’ time on the hospice’s inpatient unit, despite Covid-19 restrictions, she was still able to have visits from her family and she was also able to celebrate Vince’s birthday, with Tobias as well, in the hospice’s Family Room on 21st November.
“All the staff went out of their way to make sure we could still be a family, even when I was being cared for on the inpatient unit, Tobias would regularly visit me after he finished school, it meant so much to me,” said Jess.
“At points I really didn’t think I would be able to come home, as I was very poorly, but on 22nd December I was told I could return home. I was so excited, as well as being a little nervous, but knowing I had the support of the hospice team through their OneCall 24/7 telephone service, if needed, gave both my husband and I reassurance – they provide you with a real network of support.
“I finally came home on 23rd December and when I returned, the hospice occupational therapy team had already ensured I had equipment, such as a bed and hoist, in place ready for me, while Vince had given the room I would be sleeping in a fresh coat of paint. The whole process was very smooth.
“Being home for Christmas and our birthdays meant the world to me. Yes it was different, but we were together and that was all that mattered.
“We opened both birthday and Christmas presents together and we were able to visit my in-laws for Christmas dinner, something I would never have thought possible the week before, but the hospice knew my goal to return home and they helped me achieve this, constantly giving me encouragement.”
After the Christmas period, Jess has continued to receive support from the hospice’s services such as the physiotherapy team, emotional & wellbeing support team as well as receiving visits from nurses in the hospice consultant team.
She said: “The hospice provides a holistic service and is completely different to what I first thought a hospice would be. Similar to many people, I thought it was building where you go when you are very poorly and near end of life, but this is not the case.
“It is a place which provides specialist care and advice for everyone, at all stages of life’s journey which helps them live as comfortably as possible.
“The support from Bridget, and the emotional & wellbeing support team, has been brilliant as they have helped me with keeping a positive mindset. While the consultant team, in particular Cathy, regularly visit me to provide support and have served as a central point for my wider care too which makes the process simpler for my family and I, as I adjust to my new normal.
“Through supporting St Elizabeth Hospice, and their Be a Star campaign, people will be making a difference to those in their local community who need care when support is needed most, but most importantly you will be helping families be together at Christmas time, like mine, when otherwise this would not be possible.”
To support St Elizabeth Hospice’s Be a Star appeal visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/be-a-star/