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18th May 2020

Heritage stories: John Garbett

John Garbett, 82, was a nurse at St Helena Hospice on the day it opened until he retired in 1998.

John Garbett


I started at St Helena Hospice on my birthday in early May 1985, so I couldn’t forget that! We had two weeks’ induction with Dr E and then we opened to our first patient. 

The building was lovely, homely, very different from what I was used to. Coming from a busy 40 bed surgical ward at Severalls Hospital to a 15 bedded unit, for the first month I was wondering what I was doing there because it was so quiet.

But then it started; we soon got more patients in and we just got on with it.

Most of us didn’t know what we were doing at first because it was a new branch of nursing for us. I didn’t know a thing about palliative care. I felt a bit out of it but I soon learned. I never stopped learning, every day something new.

I hoped the new hospice would achieve the whole holistic approach for families and patients, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. Love and care, that’s what I was aiming for, and I think we did bring comfort and relief for families for their loved ones.

I remember the first patient vividly, Lisa. Illness can affect anyone at any age. I always dreaded somebody I knew coming in to stay at the hospice. It happened twice, that hits home.

There is an aurora about the place. I don’t think people know what it is until they walk in there. Someone said to me once ‘how can you work in a place like that?’ I said it’s full of laughter and fun.

It’s there, it just happens. It was the best thing I ever did. It was lovely, like a family. 

John Garbett

St Helena Hospice Heritage Stories project supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund

National Lottery Heritage Fund

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