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A visit from Dan puts smiles on faces

While she had been staying at the Hospice, Victoria Oliver had been missing her gelding fell pony, Dan the Man aka Greenholme Falcon, so Dan paid a visit.

Victoria’s mum and dad, Sylvie and Alan, and her children, 18 year old Chantelle and 15 year old Bobby, brought the 11 year old fell to the Hospice garden to see her before she died. Victoria and Dan hadn’t seen each other since April so smiles were all around as they reunited, and it was a very special moment for Victoria’s children and parents. Victoria said:

“It means the world to me to see Dan. I last saw him a couple of months ago, so it’s been a long time since I have been near a horse, the longest time ever, so it means a lot to me.

“The other patients came out to see him too and stroke him, and that melted my heart. We managed to put smiles on so many faces.

“I thought it went beautifully. I don't think it could have gone any better. He behaved perfectly and people were smiling and happy, the sun was shining. Everybody came out.”

Harwich Museum held one of its monthly quiz nights to raise funds for St Helena, and Alan, Victoria’s dad, brought along a cheque from the quiz to give to the nurses, which was very nearly eaten by Dan!

Before admission to the Hospice inpatient unit, Victoria and her family were support at home by Michaela Clark, a clinical nurse specialist from the Hospice in the Home team at St Helena. Victoria was delighted her nurse was at the Hospice when Dan visited:

“Michaela comes and checks on me when I’m at home, so it was nice that she got to see him and have a stroke and a cuddle with him. She knows how much the horses mean to me.”

Image: Victoria with her gelding fell pony Dan

Victoria with Dan the man, aka Greenholme Falcon, in the Hospice garden

Victoria has owned Dan since he was four years old, and he is produced and ridden by Chantelle. They put a great deal of time and effort into making Dan a champion show pony and he has competed to a high level. Being a hairy horse, he takes a lot of caring for and grooming is very important and quite time consuming. Dan has won competitions up and down the country; the most notable at Royal Windsor and the Horse of the Year show. He is enjoying an easy year this year due to Victoria’s health but the family hopes he will continue his success next year competing at the top level.

Dan’s visit came during Victoria’s second stay at the Hospice. On the first afternoon of her readmission in May, Victoria was delighted when Sam, a rescue donkey from Riffhams Donkeys, popped his head into her room.

Sam was visiting that day because the Hospice team had recreated the beach for another patient who had always enjoyed visits to the seaside.

Victoria also got to have a cuddle with little goats who came in to spent time with patients and their visitors, courtesy of Thrift Farm Holdings, before going back to their mums on the farm for tea.

“Having the donkey pop in that afternoon was a lovely surprise. I've had horses for 40 years and in that time, I've never stroked a donkey, so it was quite a cool experience. 

“Because the Hospice is such a lovely place, it makes staying here easier for me. It is nice to see different things like the goats and the donkey. Things like this make me smile, it cheers everyone up and it's nice to see different things, not just four walls and lots of medication and poking and prodding.”  

During her first admission in April this year, Victoria was filmed for ITV Anglia news talking about hospice care and how the St Helena staff helped her through the most difficult of times. She told the reporter:

“With my condition, having to come into Hospice was extremely frightening but they have been nothing but welcoming, helpful and do everything they can to put you on the right path to what you need to feel better.”

Her children are comfortable to visit their mum in the Hospice environment, confirms Victoria:

“Chantelle and Bobby feel at home coming here. We can have evenings in the lounge to watch a film and they can stay over with me, which makes a very complicated and difficult situation manageable. The kids said to me ‘Mum, when the time comes if you’re at St Helena we don't mind coming to see you, it will be a lot calmer’.

“I feel so at ease here, and so do my family and children and the fact that we can do normal things, but be looked after and guided and have a safety net around us. It isn't easy going from being a super active, super on it mum, going out every weekend in the horse box, going to shows, mucking out; to not doing any of it, that was the kick in the teeth. 

“But now I set little milestones like Dan coming in or going out to the shops. Then we’ll have another milestone after that, like I might arrange to go home for the day. So we set little milestones because then I feel like I’m reaching for something. 

“But we wouldn't be able to do that without the support from St Helena because the way everyone has come across to us and helped us, it's like we're part of a family here, and it's a really nice feeling to feel part of the family. 

Image: Victoria with her family and gelding fell pony in the hospice garden

Bobby, Victoria, Dan, Chantelle, Alan and Sylvia in the Hospice garden

“All the nurses and staff are absolutely unbelievable and they all work so hard. Even when they're meant to be finishing work, you still see them floating around later, because they want to make sure things are sorted before they go, and not just handing over to someone and disappearing out the door. They follow things through, make sure you're settled, they make sure you're happy.

“You don't just get the nursing with St Helena; you get the banter, build a bond with them and that's what is important. They make me feel relaxed and reassured about scary things that are happening and procedures that could be happening. They make difficult things straightforward.

“I feel very privileged to have a bed here and I really mean that.”

Image: Victoria holding a kid goat at the hospice
Image: Victoria with two doctors in the hospice garden
Image: Dan the gelding fell pony in the hospice garden
Image: Victoria with a donkey at the hospice

This story may not be published elsewhere without express permission from St Helena Hospice.


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