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Hospice Care Week: St Clare allowed devoted husband Tony to remain with his beloved wife during height of Covid crisis

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When Tony Morris learned that his wife Collette had untreatable cancer, lockdown was about to begin and he feared the mother of their two children would spend her final days alone in hospital.

But thanks to St Clare Hospice, he was able to stay with her at the charity's inpatient unit in Hastingwood, near Harlow, while she received her end-of-life care.

Collette was just 42 when she was admitted to the hospice. She had been diagnosed in February with an aggressive cancer and was told towards the end of March it was untreatable.

Tony and Collette Morris – Collette was cared for in the St Clare Hospice inpatient unit for ten days at the start of Covid lockdown (42491456)
Tony and Collette Morris – Collette was cared for in the St Clare Hospice inpatient unit for ten days at the start of Covid lockdown (42491456)

"The day after we were told that Collette needed palliative care, I knew that we needed to get her out of the hospital," Tony, 42, said.

"The Covid pandemic was worsening and the lockdown was about to start. I was terrified that if Collette was in a hospital during lockdown then we wouldn’t be able to visit her, and I just didn’t want her to be on her own."

However, Collette was able to be cared for at St Clare – and Tony was able to stay with her.

The Morris family on holiday – son Daniel, 17, dad Tony, mum Collette and daughter Lainnie, 19
The Morris family on holiday – son Daniel, 17, dad Tony, mum Collette and daughter Lainnie, 19

"Honestly, to be told that Collette needed to go to a hospice was scary," he said. "We arrived just as the coronavirus lockdown was starting and things were changing. We were separated off from everyone in Collette’s room, and that's where I stayed with her for ten straight days.

"It was a weight off my shoulders and a sense of relief, more than anything, that Collette was in a place where she was able to get the care she needed. St Clare made the world of difference to us."

At a time when national news headlines were dominated by the pandemic, the clinical staff at St Clare continued to do all they could to support their patients.

"Covid made it harder for the nurses," Tony said. "St Clare is an environment where you need to be close to people, but because of the outbreak they had to keep their distance. It must have been so difficult for the nurses to go from being close and sitting with people to keeping a safe distance.

"For me, there wasn’t one stand-out moment of our time at St Clare – it was the whole experience which was so calming. Everybody was just so generous and kind.

"I kept on telling the staff while we were there that the job they're doing is fantastic. To do a job like caring in a hospice, you have to be a special person. You couldn’t do that job otherwise."

Collette died at St Clare on April 4, just nine weeks after her initial cancer diagnosis. She and Tony had two children together, Daniel, 17, and Lainnie, 19. Since her death, the Morris family, who live in Harlow, have raised over £3,600 for the hospice.

Their story is just one example of how the charity excelled in spite of the coronavirus crisis.

Hospice Care Week ended on Sunday (Oct 11) and the team at St Clare used the awareness campaign to showcase all their work, undertaken by a team of unsung heroes, to deliver outstanding palliative care, free of charge, to all who need it in the community.

St Clare is one of more than 200 charitable hospices across the UK that took part in Hospice Care Week, led by the national hospice and end-of-life care charity Hospice UK.

This year the theme, This Is What It Takes, highlighted that while hospice care is provided free for people with life-limiting conditions and their families, it costs a great deal and takes a lot of skills, people and resources.

A spokesperson for St Clare said: "This year, as we all navigate the global coronavirus pandemic, it has taken even more teamwork, excellence and dedication from supporters to continue to deliver outstanding care across the hospice’s inpatient unit and community palliative care teams."

St Clare is asking supporters to consider becoming a Friend for Life – and making a regular monthly donation to the hospice so that it can continue to be there every day for families like Tony and Collette’s.

Find out more about giving regularly and being a St Clare’s Friend for Life at www.stclarehospice.org.uk/donate/friendforlife/ .

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