New hospice communications officer Kay Taylor is starting to understand the level of care provided at St Catherine’s:
A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a patient in the grounds of St Catherine’s Hospice which I think will stay with me for a very long time.
It was a glorious day, and the daffodils were in full bloom. It certainly put a smile on my face to see the sun shining over the beautiful gardens of St Catherine’s Park, and walk along the pathways without needing a coat.
But as much as I enjoyed it, it would be difficult for me to really appreciate it as much as John* did.
John was being shown around the gardens by a one of our physiotherapists in his wheelchair, and his whole face – from his eyes to his smile – was beaming.
It turns out that John had been so poorly these past few months, he hadn’t been outside since September. And he was so incredibly grateful at finally feeling the warmth of the sunshine on his skin again.
He was thrilled, and it was wonderful to witness, although of course it made me feel slightly sad as well.
That’s something I’m going to have to get used to working in a hospice environment, following in the footsteps of all of the fantastic staff and volunteers who make things like this happen on a regular basis.
I’m quickly learning that there is so much more to palliative and end-of-life hospice care than I first realised. There’s the medical side of things, with trained professionals helping patients to manage symptoms of life-shortening illnesses and making them more comfortable.
But one message which is coming through loud and clear is that the hospice staff and volunteers really do care for people – and it’s covering all the little details, like something as simple as a stroll in the fresh air, which really matter.
We recently covered a story in the communications team about St Catherine’s hosting its first graduation ceremony, when Max Neill, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer, was presented with his Master of Arts from Manchester University at the hospice. He wore a cap and gown and was celebrated for his achievements in a personalised graduation ceremony.
Similarly, Jane and Steve Cottom held an intimate wedding at St Catherine’s Hospice last month, after Steve was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Jane spoke about how staff went the extra mile to make it a moving ceremony and celebration personal to the couple.
Sadly, Max and Steve have both now died, but hopefully the specialised care they received – as well as the happy milestones they celebrated here – helped create some meaningful memories for their loved ones, who can be comforted by the fact that they were cared for in the best possible way when it really mattered the most.
St Catherine’s is a very poignant place for a lot of people, and it becomes a place of remembrance and reflection too. That’s part of what makes it such a well-loved local charity, and I feel so humbled and proud to be part of that.
*Patient’s name changed.