“It was like travelling through a storm to reach an oasis of calm.”
Geoff Charlson says he felt relief as soon as he arrived at St Catherine’s Hospice, when his wife Caroline was ill and her cancer prognosis had shifted from something which they were trying to cure, to symptoms they were trying to alleviate.
She had been discharged from hospital following radical surgery at The Christie in Manchester but back home in Euxton her condition had deteriorated and she was in a lot of pain. After a stay at Royal Preston Hospital, she was referred to St Catherine’s where the focus was on making her comfortable and bringing the pain under control.
Geoff remembers: “When we arrived I just burst into tears – it was such a relief, it was something you could really sense, and really feel as soon as you arrived.
“The contrast was stark – we’d gone from grueling chemotherapy and radiotherapy and radical surgery in a busy hospital, to this place of calm where the focus was on wellbeing, the whole person and the patient came first, not the medical treatments. The staff worked with us, helping us to understand what to expect – previously a lot of control had been taken away from her, but at St Catherine’s there were options and choices again.”
Geoff is now sharing his experiences of the Lostock Hall hospice to encourage others to sign up to give the charity a regular donation each month so St Catherine’s can continue to be there for families like his. The ‘Big Details; Small Details; All The Difference’ campaign puts the spotlight on the variety of things big and small the hospice takes care of, and the impact this has on families like Geoff’s.
The 68-year-old retired chief executive of an engineering firm said: “I couldn’t believe it when I found out St Catherine’s needs to raise £4m each and every year to be able to continue its work.
“We’ve done various things as a family – including the Moonlight and Memories Walk in memory of Caroline – but I’m pleased the regular donation I give each month helps the charity to be more sustainable, to be able to budget and plan for the future, something which can be especially hard when fundraising is unpredictable.”
Geoff said Caroline’s time at St Catherine’s two years ago gave them precious time together as a family.
“We found it a very stable environment, where the focus was on our time together and our interactions between us and our family and friends,” he said. “Knowing we had the expertise and the pain relief on hand gave us the strength and the time to just be together, which was so important.”
This included having Caroline’s beloved cats Saffie and Sydney to visit and enjoying takeaways and games nights with Geoff and daughters Jessica, Laura and Rebecca.
Geoff said: “She loved the cats to bits so this was really important for her and wonderful to see. We did crosswords and jigsaws together, there were beautiful flowers brought to the room, the food was great and we enjoyed takeaways together. All with the knowledge there was back-up at the touch of a button if the pain got worse or any other symptoms came on. That was so important after being in so much pain at home beforehand – we all needed assurance that she would be comfortable.
“Strange as it might sound to some people, it meant those days at St Catherine’s were enjoyable. Everything at St Catherine’s was ‘can do’. It’s clear that the people there are doing a service, a vocation – not just a job.”
Tracy Parkinson, in-patient unit manager at St Catherine’s, said: “We’re extremely grateful to Geoff for sharing his family’s experiences of staying with us at the hospice.
“We know through feedback from those we care for and their families that the small things – like having a pet to visit, enjoying a bubble bath or favourite meal – mean a lot to people at this time in their lives. Our job, as a hospice team, is to get the big issues under control – like ensuring someone is not in pain or struggling with other symptoms – so that they can enjoy these small things with their loved ones in comfort, and create precious memories together.”
To sign up to give a monthly donation to St Catherine’s click here.
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