Isabel Hospice launches comfort appeal to improve dignity and quality of life
A fundraising appeal to help Isabel Hospice replace essential items to ensure every person they care for can die with dignity, has been backed by a Bishop’s Stortford widow who has seen first-hand how the small things can make a big difference to a loved one at the end of their life.
The Hospice, which runs its Living Well day service at the St Barnabas Centre in Thorley, has shared a wish list of the five specialist pieces of equipment it needs in order to bring comfort and peace to those it cares for either in its Inpatient Unit or at home. Each item will help improve the quality of life of those with cancer or other end-stage conditions, such as motor neurone disease, dementia or heart and respiratory conditions.
Suzanne Bradbrook knows just how vital these kinds of kit are having witnessed the difference they made to her late husband Peter, enabling him to spend his final days free from pain, discomfort and distress.
The dad-of-three was cared for by the Hospice at Home team before passing away in 2016 having been diagnosed with prostate cancer two years earlier.
Suzanne said her husband had been fit and healthy all his life until he started complaining of backache after the couple returned from a cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary. “Over the following months, things rapidly went downhill, and he was diagnosed with spinal compression as the cancer had got into his bones,” she said. “He became immobile and for some time was forced to wear a neck brace 24-hours a day.
“He was in and out of hospital and they just couldn’t cope with the palliative care needs he had. I ended up staying at the hospital from 7am to 7pm with him for weeks.
“After a particularly distressing night at home when I had to call an ambulance, again, because of his pain, the paramedic asked who my hospice nurse was. I didn’t have one! I don’t know what that paramedic did, but the next day Isabel Hospice were in touch and that is when the help started.”
Peter was adamant he wanted to remain in the then family home in Thorley Park, so the Hospice arranged for a hospital bed for the couple’s living room, with Suzanne sleeping on the sofa so she could remain close by.
Still in a lot of pain, and feeling increasingly anxious, the Hospice liaised with the district nurses for Peter to have a syringe driver to help administer his complex medication, which was becoming more and more difficult to give orally.
Suzanne said: “Once he had it, it made such a difference. He was not in pain and I didn’t have to worry that he wasn’t getting his medication, it was all done automatically with this small box.”
One other thing that brought Peter instant relief was a mouth care kit, which Suzanne was able to use to moisten his mouth and lips. “I didn’t know such things existed at first,” she said. “I’d been cleaning and hydrating Peter’s mouth with a cut-up baby sponge.
“When I got the mouth care kit it was just great, and such a comfort to know I could help Peter with such a small thing - keeping his lips and tongue moist when he was so ill.”
The family also benefited from support via Isabel Hospice’s 24-hour urgent advice helpline as well as from the overnight nurse, who arrived within minutes of Peter passing away and stayed with Suzanne, helping her to wash and change him ready for the doctor to arrive to confirm his death.
Suzanne, who now volunteers at the Isabel Hospice shop in Bridge Street, said: “Peter was adamant he wanted to remain at home, and without the wonderful care of the Hospice, this would simply not have been possible.
Isabel Hospice’s wish list includes -
- 1 Syringe Driver Kit to help administer medication in precisely measured quantities over a period of time - £1,520
- 4 intravenous pumps - £1,400 each
Senior nurse Lea van der Neit said: “These pumps allow a slow but constant flow of medication and fluids. The portable pumps mean patients can move around, sit up with family and friends or go into the garden to enjoy the sun.”
- 40 pairs of foam booties to protect patients who are unable to leave their bed from the agony of pressure sores on the heels of their feet - £70 for 10 pairs
- 300 personal comfort packs to relieve the discomfort of a full bladder for those no longer able to use the bathroom - £14.38 per pack
- 1,800 mouth care kits - £36.80 for a box of 40
Senior nurse Tracey Bryant said: “When patients are unable to eat or drink and they have a cracked, dry mouth, it takes all of five minutes to gently clean and moisten the mouth and lips. An amazing gentle and simple act of care.”
“Talking about the care Peter received has been painful, but I want people to know what an amazing help Isabel Hospice has been to my whole family and how much they can help other local families, but need the donations to keep providing this free care, and buy the specialist equipment they need to support people living with a life-limiting illness in our town.”
You can donate via www.isabelhospice.org.uk, or call fundraising on 01707 382500.
More by this authorDavid James