“From the moment we entered the building, the care and support our family received, especially Mum, was second to none. I could talk for days at just how special the hospice is, because every single person there, employed or volunteer was brilliant,” explained Ross Dowsing, whose Mum, Heather Dowsing, received support at St Elizabeth Hospice until her death, aged 74 in 2023, following a battle with cancer.
Annually, St Elizabeth Hospice cares for more than 4,000 patients and their families throughout East Suffolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney. This care sees the independent Suffolk charity providing free services – whenever and wherever it is needed, whether at home, in the community or at the hospice – to those living with a progressive or life-limiting illness.
“Mum was everything you want your mother to be, loving, caring, helpful, nurturing, a teacher and a friend,” explained Ross.
“Born and raised in Ipswich, she was a massive Ipswich Town Football Club fan and a season ticket holder for many years. Her love for football would genuinely put most football fans to shame – she would plan her life around the fixtures!
“Mum was originally diagnosed with bowel cancer, which was operated on and removed, however further cancer was found on her lungs which was being treated by chemotherapy.
“The treatment seemed to be going well, but this all changed in December 2022 when Mum had a seizure and was rushed to hospital. Unfortunately, this is when it was discovered the cancer had spread to her brain and two tumours were picked up on scans.
“After six weeks receiving care from hospital, it was in February 2023 when Mum first came under the care of St Elizabeth Hospice on their Inpatient Unit. They treated her like a guest, rather than a patient, making her feel really relaxed.
“The staff would sit to chat, laugh or cry with Mum. It was so brilliant she had both clinical and social support, and the staff were just as supportive to us as a family. They all had time to talk to us, make sure we had everything we needed – nothing was too much trouble.
“This was our family’s first experience of hospice care, and at first I thought it would be a sterile and cold place, but this could not be further from the truth.
“St Elizabeth Hospice is just so warm, relaxed and homely. We brought in photos, flowers, blankets and teddies for Mum. As well as this, we put pictures up which had been drawn by her granddaughters, helping make Mum’s bay, a home from home.
“The most important thing to Mum were her grandchildren, Darcey and Ella, who kept her young and always smiling. The girls couldn’t wait to come to the hospice to see Grandma, brush her hair, tell her stories and make sure she was smiling, but on top of this, the girls enjoyed the attention from the staff. “Somewhere like a hospice could be daunting for young children who would be around very sick people but the girls didn’t feel anything but welcome and comfortable thanks to how the staff treated them.
“The hospice’s Family Room was full of books, toys and a television, which was a nice distraction for the children at times, along with the garden where they could watch the fish swimming around.
“The staff even allowed Mum a glass of wine and we were able to have our dog visit her too, which always cheered her up.
“The biggest difference the team made for Mum was helping her in her down moments and keeping her as upbeat as they could. A memory I will have forever, is coming in to see four members of staff sitting with Mum, she was having a bad day, and they were doing their best to cheer her up and make her smile in which they succeeded.
“One of the staff members even said she would paint Mum’s nails and she kept her word, because the next day Mum’s nails were painted, which gave her such a lift, making her feel more human and helping take her mind off those tough moments. These are the extra miles the staff are prepared to go to make your loved one feel special.
“For us, as a family, it was so reassuring to know that Mum was being looked after 24/7 by people who really do care. For anyone who thinks they or their loved one could benefit from the care of St Elizabeth Hospice, I would say book an appointment to visit and get a feel of the hospice – as I cannot recommend it enough.
“We will never forget the care and compassion the St Elizabeth Hospice team showed Mum and our whole family.”