An inventive nine-year-old has raised much-needed funds for St Catherine’s Hospice after holding a sponsored sign language day in honour of her uncle.
Isla Hurst was inspired by Rose Ayling-Ellis on Strictly Come Dancing, and decided to use sign language for a full day to support the charity which cared for her uncle Martin Wright.
She filmed a day-in-the-life video – from eating breakfast to walking the dog – and narrated it all in sign language to raise a wonderful £335 for the Lostock Hall hospice.
Martin’s wife of nearly 25 years, Kath Wright, visited The Mill café in the grounds of St Catherine’s Park with her niece to make the generous donation.
She told how the charity’s invaluable support enabled Martin to be cared for at home where he could spend quality time with Kath, their son Noah, age 23, and daughter Millie, 22.
“It was a really scary time for us all,” she said. “We didn’t expect Martin to get ill – he was a really strong and fit person. He was really hard-working and went to the gym a lot, and he did his best to carry on as normal throughout his illness and all of the treatments. St Catherine’s helped him to be comfortable and allowed us to be together as a family in his final months, which was so important to us.”
Martin, an IT project manager from Limbrick, Chorley, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, in 2019.
Kath, a teacher, said: “He was ill for a year before the pandemic, but he was a fighter and underwent chemotherapy and significant back surgery before undergoing a stem cell treatment.
“He was in remission during lockdown and was doing well, but he relapsed in the summer of 2020 and by the autumn we were being visited at home by our St Catherine’s Clinical Nurse Specialist, Tracey Rhodes.
“We didn’t want to accept that he was losing the battle – the stem cell treatment was supposed to give him another five to 10 years so we couldn’t really get our heads around it all. Martin was still working from home and remained really positive because he just wanted to carry on as normal. That was his way of coping, but he was becoming very poorly.
“Tracey talked to us about end of life care, and because his medication was constantly changing, she coordinated all of that with the GP which was a huge help. She was giving me a lot of emotional support by that point as well. I could always ring her in between visits, and she was a listening ear when I needed her.
“She asked about the children a lot too; she was very much about looking at the whole picture and how the whole family was affected. She was in my corner, and that made so much difference.
“During Martin’s last Christmas I rang the hospice most days for support and advice. I was basically nursing him at home and many of the services we usually used were closed, but St Catherine’s was always there for us. They sorted out pain medication and just went above and beyond to help us.”
Martin died aged 51 in January 2021, surrounded by his loving family.
“St Catherine’s enabled Martin to stay at home so that we could be with him at every minute,” Kath said. “All three of us were by his side when he died. The hospice’s support made a horrific experience a little easier for us and we will always be grateful for that.
“I feel a real connection to St Catherine’s now and I attend the monthly bereavement support group and visit The Mill café regularly. When I arrive at the hospice I just feel the warmth; everyone has got a very caring, gentle and comforting way about them, and I like that I can still have links to a place which helped me so much.”
She added: “I’m really proud of Isla for coming up with the idea to raise funds for St Catherine’s. Martin was a great uncle and a brilliant dad. He was very funny; he was very quick-witted and made everyone laugh. He loved gardening and the outdoors, and liked to spend time planning amazing holidays, to places like America and Hong Kong.
“He was also very into nature and animals, and we’re placing his ashes at West Pennine Remembrance Park. His dad’s ashes are there too – it’s all about taking care of the natural environment and wildlife, so it will be a special place where we can go to remember him.”
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