Leanne's story - Hospice care at Christmas

Christmas is a time for family and friends to be together and to share 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, for many of whom it will be their last Christmas spent together.

In 2021, once again, the independent Suffolk charity is hosting its annual Christmas appeal, Be a Star. An appeal 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 fundraising events like the Christmas Day Dip or volunteering time to help the hospice as part of a New Year’s resolution.

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 under its care this year.

One person who is familiar with the support St Elizabeth Hospice provides at Christmas time is Leanne Mann, whose mum, Lorraine Brown, was cared for during the Christmas period in 2019.This support enabled the family to enjoy Christmas together as well as help Lorraine attend Leanne’s wedding before Lorraine’s death in January 2020.

“I really enjoyed our Christmas in the hospice as a family, it really was a home from home,” explained Leanne.

“Mum had thought she was going home and had booked a cottage to have time away together as a family, but unfortunately her health took a downturn after my wedding and it became apparent on 20th December she would be unable to leave the hospice.

“This didn’t matter at all and we all embraced the idea. The hospice staff arranged for us to have a bigger room so that on Christmas Day we could have six of us and her newly born grandchild together.

“We knew deep down this would be our last Christmas together so with the hospice’s help we made sure it was a very happy Christmas full of food, presents and lots of time spent together.”

A former occupational department practitioner at Ipswich Hospital, Lorraine came under the care of the hospice in November 2019 after being diagnosed with an incurable rare form of cancer. Initially she received support from the St Elizabeth Hospice Community Team before being admitted into the hospice’s Inpatient Unit on 26th November.

Leanne added: “Christmas is a very important time for my family and I. Ever since I was young I have been a massive Christmas person and had to always be told to stay in bed until at least 6am on Christmas Day morning, even now when it gets to November I want to have the decorations up!

“Dad even joked in his speech at my wedding ‘I am not surprised Leanne chose to have her wedding near Christmas.’

“Most people would think that spending Christmas at the hospice would not be happy experience, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We spent the day as any family would. Mum loved British comedy, especially Gavin and Stacey, so we spent our Christmas evening in the hospice watching the Christmas special of Gavin and Stacey laughing together, which is such a lovely memory to have.

“We all wore different Christmas jumpers my cousin had brought along, watched the Queen’s speech, we decorated Mum’s room, shared presents and had a full three-course meal with prosecco and Buck’s Fizz. It didn’t feel different to a normal Christmas at all and we were also able to stay overnight Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

“The hospice staff made it really special and they even snuck into Mum’s room on Christmas morning to place wrapped presents for her to open when she woke. She couldn’t believe it and was so touched by their kindness, it made her feel so special and brought the magic of Christmas alive.

“As the staff had been a part of our journey throughout Mum’s time at the hospice a lot of them felt like family. After my wedding Mum showed them photos of the day and during Christmas they came to check in on us to see if we were ok and to make sure Mum was comfortable, but each time it wasn’t as if a nurse was visiting it was more like another family member had come to join our day.

“We are a positive family and the support I received from the hospice bereavement support team after Mum’s death has only made me stronger.

“I am so pleased Mum stayed at the hospice for Christmas as she was more comfortable than she would have been at home. To her nothing changed, which was the most important thing, she was comfortable and the amazing care continued throughout.

“Without St Elizabeth Hospice our Christmas would have been very different but thanks to their support we shared a normal family Christmas. It was made more perfect because of where it was and thanks to their care, Mum had the Christmas she deserved and we were able to have the family feeling we love.

“Through the hospice’s support Mum was able to enjoy Christmas and her birthday on 6th January, when once again the hospice was amazing as they allowed us to have 40 people attend Mum’s birthday party in the hospice dining room.

“St Elizabeth Hospice delivers amazing holistic care to both the patient and their family, they made my Mum comfortable during a very difficult time and as a family they helped us create memories for us to cherish forever.”

To support St Elizabeth Hospice’s Be a Star appeal visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/be-a-star/

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