I have never felt so much love and compassion from complete strangers, especially on the day she left us.
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…
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.
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. My idea of a hospice could not have been further from the truth.
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.
To contact the St Helena Fundraising team, please telephone 01206 931 468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org , Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm.
To contact the St Helena Retail team, for enquiries about our shops, donation centre and house clearance service please telephone 01206 890 165.
24 hour advice: SinglePoint 01206 890 360
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
You can contact the St Helena Tendring Centre (Clacton) Monday to Friday, between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01255 221 222
Tendring Centre Postcode for Sat Navs: CO15 1EU
The HR Team can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01206 931 466
To contact the St Helena Finance Team please telephone 01206 931 450 Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm
The Volunteer Services team can be contacted Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm on 01206 931 466
For all media enquiries between 9.00am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday, please phone the Marketing and Communications team directly on 01206 931 464
If you, or a member of your family has a life-limiting illness and would like to discuss whether St Helena care services can help, you can contact the SinglePoint telephone service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 01206 890 360
To contact the St Helena Bereavement Support team please telephone the bereavement helpline: 01206 984 274, Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 5.00pm
The Learning and Development Centre is open Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm and can be contacted on 01206 851 560
For more information on the St Helena Service User Group please contact Chair, Ken Aldred on 01206 751 397
To contact the Lottery team please call 0800 285 1390 or visit the website here, Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.
If you would like to write to or visit the Lottery team, the address is: Your Hospice Lottery Office Unit 6 The Atrium, Phoenix Square, Wyncolls Road, Colchester CO4 9AS.
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