Julie Eastwood experienced the specialist support of St Catherine’s when both her mum and dad were diagnosed with life-shortening illnesses. Her dad Alan wished to die at home in Grimsargh, and her mum Rena was looked after on the hospice’s inpatient unit in Lostock Hall before being cared for at home in her final days.
Julie, 53, from Freckleton, is sharing her story to help raise awareness of the importance of regular donations, to enable this local charity to continue its vital care of families like hers.
When my dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, he made the decision not to have any treatment like chemotherapy or radiotherapy, and he wanted to die at home.
One of the St Catherine’s community Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS) came out to see us, and they talked to my dad about his end-of-life care preferences, and managed to get his true feelings out of him.
He was struggling and in a lot of pain but he wasn’t telling me and Mum because he didn’t want to worry us. But he told the St Catherine’s nurse so she was able to prescribe the appropriate medication, and all of a sudden we just felt everything was under control.
There was no anxiousness from our side anymore because they were on top of things. Having the expert care and support from St Catherine’s enabled Mum to devote her time caring for Dad with my help every day, and but also allowed them precious weeks together without the anxiety and stress of trying to sort out getting proper medical care for him.
Being at home meant that Dad could carry on doing the everyday, normal things he liked which was important to him; he loved his politics and current affairs shows on TV, he loved his garden and he could still sit and watch the birds coming to the feeder. It just made a world of difference and all of that was made possible through St Catherine’s facilitating it and ringing the right people to get things done. He died peacefully at home aged 72, with me and Mum right by his side.
Unfortunately at the time, my mum also had a rare life-limiting illness called Pulmonary Hypertension – high blood pressure in the lungs – with the added complications of systemic sclerosis and scleroderma, which are autoimmune conditions affecting the body’s immune system.
Her health had been deteriorating, so after Dad died I was looking after Mum and going round most days and doing a lot of hands-on care.
Mum made it very clear that she didn’t want to die in hospital; she wanted to either go to St Catherine’s Hospice or be at home. When she got to the hospice for symptom management though, she was very frightened and didn’t really know what to expect. But immediately the nurses and doctors put her at ease, and all of her anxiety just faded away.
The chef came and asked her what she wanted for her evening meal; it was just like coming to a hotel with all of this extra brilliant medical care. Nothing was too much trouble. She stayed in the hospice for a fortnight, and she looked amazing at the end of that two weeks. If it hadn’t have been for the oxygen mask on her face, she looked like she’d been mended, and I’d got my mum back.
Mum returned home, and the St Catherine’s CNS nurse came to visit us and make sure that everything Mum wanted was in place; that all of her wishes were being listened to and that she was comfortable.
Sadly, she died a few weeks later aged 78. That’s when the hospice stepped in again to provide emotional support to me; they were amazing. My brother who lives and works overseas was also very grateful to the hospice for the care and support they gave to us all at such a difficult time.
I would ask anyone, if you can just spare a little bit each month, to donate to this fantastic local charity that helps people have quality of life to the end of life. Every donation really does help.
- To give a donation from just £5 a month to help St Catherine’s to look after the Big Issues, take care of the Small Details, and make All The Difference to local people affected by life-shortening illnesses, please click here.
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