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How Isabel Hospice enabled loved ones to be with the Bishop's Stortford couple who died just four months apart

Clair Sarle knows all too well the very real and positive difference that Isabel Hospice can make.

As her mother, April Robertson, neared the end of her life last July, the charity's hospice at home team was able to care for her at Clair’s home in Great Hallingbury.

The team had done the same for April’s husband, Peter Kingsnorth, a matter of months earlier as the UK was preparing to enter its first national lockdown.

April Robertson and Peter Kingsnorth (45427122)
April Robertson and Peter Kingsnorth (45427122)

Peter died at the couple’s home in Bishop’s Stortford last March, followed four months later by April. They had been together for 25 years and got married only in January last year as Peter's health started to deteriorate.

Having the support of Isabel Hospice’s specialist team meant both were able to die peacefully at home with their loved ones around them.

“We’re just incredibly grateful to have the hospice,” Clair said. “The understanding and the empathy, the skill and compassion, and the warmth and love they show is truly incredible.

“So many people have lost loved ones over the past 18 months who weren’t able to be with them, so we know how lucky we are.

"Mum was always an impetuous and impatient person so we knew the end would be quick, but we were able to sit quietly with her, reading psalms and playing her music.

“The hospice allowed us to be with her all the way through and for her to be surrounded by the people who loved her. That is really, really precious.

"It was an absolute lifeline in those dark final days and made all the difference to being able to have her at home at the very end.”

April Robertson (45427126)
April Robertson (45427126)

Peter and April's story reinforces the vital importance of Isabel Hospice's launch of its spring appeal this week and its call for urgent help from the community so it can continue to support local people nearing the end of their lives.

The charity has pledged to never stop caring, but needs supporters now more than ever as the impact of the coronavirus continues to affect every aspect of its work as well as how it raises the £7.5 million needed each year to deliver its specialist services free of charge to the people of eastern Hertfordshire.

Although its shops, which have been shut for many months, will be able to reopen on April 12 and fundraising events will be able to start up again as lockdown restrictions begin to ease, the charity is facing a significant funding shortfall at a time when the commitment and compassion of its highly skilled nursing staff has never been more vital.

Director of clinical services Elizabeth Paske said the Covid-19 crisis had been the toughest period in the hospice’s 40-year history.

“Throughout the pandemic, our dedicated nursing, medical and support teams have been unwavering in their care of local people who are nearing the end of their lives," she said.

"Our staff have stood steadfast on the front line, both within the communities the hospice serves and in our in-patient unit.

"They have faced risks to their own safety and the health of their families. They have shouldered deep strain without seeking applause or recognition.

"Throughout it all, they have never stopped caring, and with the continued support of those who believe in the importance of hospice care, they never will.”

In 2020, Isabel Hospice cared for 2,339 patients and their families.

Elizabeth added: “The stark reality is that without our specialist provision, the experience of those families we've been able to support may have been entirely different.

"They would have struggled on, bearing the enormous demands of caring for a loved one at home, alone.

"Some would have spent their final moments distressed and in pain on a hospital ward.

“However, with your support, our families have the safety net of our hospice at home team and clinical nurse specialists.

"With your support, we can continue to offer expert in-patient care.

"With your support, we can stay connected to those adapting to having a life-limiting illness, even when we cannot see them face to face.

"With your support, we can continue reaching out to bereaved relatives.

“We cannot do all this without the community’s help, but together we can care long into the future, no matter what challenges we face.”

To make a donation so Isabel Hospice can continue to be there for people like April and Peter, and their loved ones, visit www.isabelhospice.org.uk/neverstopcaring.

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