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10th September 2020

I have never felt so much love and compassion from complete strangers

During the COVID-19 pandemic there have been many changes to St Helena’s services.

The usual welcoming open visiting at The Hospice has ceased, along with vital face to face support for families and loved ones. Cancelled national and local events too, had an impact on people wanting to fundraise for charities in memory of their loved ones.

In May, Louise Lovesey had to say goodbye to her sister, Claire Appleby, who had been living with cancer. A keen cyclist and runner, Louise was training for the Prudential Ride London 100 mile cycle to raise money for St Helena Hospice, and had been looking forward to visiting Claire at The Hospice to show her the post-event medal, but the event was cancelled. Louise shares her story…

Louise Lovesey

 

  I visited Claire at The Hospice a couple of times, but when COVID-19 hit, no one wanted to risk her health by visiting. We messaged back and forth a few times, but the medication she was on made her sleepy and she sometimes forgot to reply. Unfortunately, the next time we saw each other was for me to say goodbye, at which point she could no longer talk. 

When we visited Claire in The Hospice we had to wear gloves, masks and aprons. We could also only go in one at a time which was hard, as sometimes you just needed another family member there to hug or to bounce conversation off. I am not complaining; I was just grateful to be able to see her one last time.

Claire already had cancer once in 2011, so when we were told that it had returned in September 2018, we were all devastated, but not as much as when we learned that it was inoperable and therefore terminal. 

It was very hard on the family to know we would be losing her far sooner than was right. 

We made sure we spent Christmas together and as many visits throughout the next 20 months. She lived each day as it came and made many memories.

Almost immediately after Claire’s diagnosis she had a visit from a hospice community clinical nurse specialist (CNS), a lovely lady named Emma. Emma provided emotional support, assistance with getting further support and all the information that Claire and our family needed along the way. Claire confided in Emma and without her, Claire would tell you herself, she didn’t know how she would have coped. Emma would visit Claire frequently, provide a shoulder to cry on, somebody to vent to and to help put things as right as they could be.

Later on, in 2019 CNS Josh took over from Emma and was just as brilliant too, he provided just as much emotional support, practical support and everything that Claire and our family needed.

The rehabilitation team visited her house to help adjust it and make life as easy as possible, providing her with free access and fitting to all the equipment that was needed. The occupational therapists always put a smile on Claire’s face. Without the team visiting, day to day living would have been a lot more difficult.

Claire Appleby

When she first said that she was going to be attending The Hospice, I guess I had the same idea as everyone else who has never been to one or looked into what they do. In my naive mind, and in the bluntest terms, they were a place where older people went to spend their last days and were looked after by nurses until the inevitable happened.

I first learnt that St Helena looks after people at all stages of their treatment. My sister stayed at The Hospice while they tried to get her medication under control so that she was not in so much pain at home.

My sister attended groups and sessions, some along with my Mum, and they had massages and reiki as well. The Hospice also provided her end of life care and have offered a bereavement counselling service to anybody in the family who needs it.

My niece, who is 9, was having counselling sessions with a wonderful lady called Andrea, who she liked very much, which unfortunately COVID-19 stopped, really when she needed it the most.

When it came to her end of life care, the nurses were amazing. They were kind, caring, considerate, friendly, supportive, comforting and helpful. They cared for Claire with such respect and dignity and looked after our family in her last week. They went above and beyond to ensure Claire was as comfortable as could be and cared for her as if she was their own child.

I have never felt so much love and compassion from complete strangers, especially on the day she left us. It felt, to me, like they had lost a family member too.

The help and support they have given us during this deeply sad time is beyond a ‘job’. They truly care about what they do and the people they do it for, and as a family, we could not owe anyone any more than we do the wonderful staff at St Helena.

Claire, as far as she could, I think enjoyed her stays at The Hospice. The nurses and care staff were always really lovely and would always have time for a chat while they were helping her. They seemed to enjoy spending time in her room and always had lovely things to say. She was able to join in activities and wellbeing events and it meant that her partner could spruce up the house ready for her return.

I want to say thank you to all the staff at St Helena for everything they did for Claire. She always felt better when she left The Hospice and enjoyed the company of the care staff.   

After Claire died at The Hospice, Louise’s running club over 100 miles away in Hampshire, decided to step up. The generous Sherfield Park Runners held their own socially distanced fundraising run - SDR24 – setting aside a weekend in July to run five mile laps in relay for a total of 24 hours, alongside a BBQ and picnic in the garden of one of the members overlooking the countryside, to keep everyone going.

The intrepid team of 34 (plus visiting guests) raised a fantastic £1,590 by completing 208.5 laps between them, equating to 1,042.5 miles or the distance from Basingstoke to Berlin!

And next Louise is taking on the virtual Virgin London Marathon on 4th October for St Helena Hospice in memory of Claire and you can sponsor Louise on her JustGiving.

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

Louise and members of her running club
 

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