"you don’t know what they’re going through and what they’ve been through"
Sharon Harris is a clinical support worker at The Hospice and has been caring for people on the inpatient unit for 12 years. Sharon always has a smile for her patients even throughout the reality of a pandemic and despite coping with her own real lived experience of uncertainty. Sharon shares her story:
I love the involvement I have with the patients, being able to give my upmost care to each patient we have at The Hospice. Something as simple as preparing a bubble bath for a patient so they can relax, and knowing I have made a difference for that person, will stay with me all day.
I’d like to think that I’m kind to anybody that I come across. My little motto is be kind to everyone you come into contact with because you don’t know what they’re going through and what they’ve been through and just have a little smile, especially in these hard times at the moment.
Back in January, my mother in law was diagnosed with breast cancer; 85 she is, and such an inspiration. That was our first bad news of 2020. She had a mastectomy and she was going through that, and at the same time my husband was going through various health tests.
We went into March and into lockdown so that put a hold on the tests. And then I was struck down by Covid, and so was my husband, and that put another hold on tests. We went into self isolation and just didn’t know where we were.
We got over the Covid luckily. I only had minor and I was nursing my husband more than myself; I was making sure he was being cared for in the way I’d care for my patients. We have a good family network and a lovely set of neighbours, ‘can I do something for you, can I get something for you, will you be alright?’ There are so many caring people out there. It’s not until something like this happens that you realise how people feel and care about you.
And then we got the diagnosis that my husband has prostate cancer.
It was a lovely day and we were out in the garden and my husband got a call from the hospital. Unbeknown to him this telephone call was booked but the post was so delayed because of Covid, we didn’t know. But that was his diagnosis. I remember my husband saying ‘it’s not what I wanted to hear’. I gave him a big cuddle and we cried together and I said to him ‘we’ll do this together’, and we have done.
We felt very isolated. We couldn’t see anybody, it was just me and my husband. We felt numb for a good few days and every time we spoke about it we’d get upset. A couple of weeks went by and we were able to talk about it better and we’ve got stronger and we’re able to talk about it a lot better now. We’re still positive about this and we’ve got a lot of living to do once we’re back to normal.
When he was first diagnosed it was like the world had ended. I thought to myself I’m going to be looking after my husband the way I do at The Hospice and that didn’t bother me, it was the shock. You never think it’s going to happen to you.
And that’s not the first time round you know. My mother in law, who I dearly love and she’s such an inspiration, is also going through radiotherapy. Their positivity, both my husband and my mother in law, they blow me away. My positivity comes from them. We lead every day with whatever we come across, we deal with it and we sort it between us; we’re one family.
It’s been a very difficult year but I still have the strength to do my job at The Hospice. I leave my home and I leave my things at home, and I come into The Hospice and I have a different role to play.
I just can’t imagine how the patients are feeling not being able to have visitors. I am able to go home and give my husband a cuddle and a kiss and hold his hand. All the relatives are not able to do that at the moment, so I give my upmost and I look after every patient that comes into my care and I do what I can for them, the very best.
With the loved ones not being able to visit, we carry out things like video calls, telephone, we pass on any messages, we make sure they are not lonely. It’s not going to be the same as having visitors but we hope it makes their day a little bit easier and not so isolated.
You have to put the full PPE on and the patients can’t really see what you look like so that must be very difficult; everybody must look the same. We do our upmost to keep everybody safe; the patients, the staff, anybody we come into contact with, we have to be safe.
Luckily we’ve got the masks to not show how we feel because you have to be professional. But we’re all human and people touch our lives. So it is follow the rules, wear your PPE, keep your distance and have good hand hygiene and we’ll get through it together.
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SinglePoint is a 24/7 advice and support helpline which helps to coordinate an individual’s care with the hospice. SinglePoint also works alongside other healthcare services such as GPs, Community Nurses or Specialists.
To contact a patient at The Hospice please find the address and telephone number below. Phone calls can be made to patients at any time of the day or week. You can contact Inpatient Services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The Hospice, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, C04 9JU
Telephone: 01206 845 566
You can contact The Hospice in the Home Team Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:
Telephone: 01206 845 566
Tendring community team
Telephone: 01255 221 222
You can contact the Joan Tomkins Centre (Colchester) Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on:
Telephone: 01206 848 163
Fax: 01206 752 245
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Feedback, comments and complaints about St Helena care and support services may be made verbally or in writing to: Director of Care, St Helena, Myland Hall, Barncroft Close, Highwoods, Colchester, CO4 9JU. To speak to a member of our team, call 01206 845 566