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St Richard’s Hospice

I went back to the hospice today give their Appeals Director all the donations which people so kindly gave in memory of Christopher – both at the crematorium and subsequently via the funeral director.  The total came to just under £1500, which I then matched. Together with whatever is raised by the scrapping of the faithful little Polo, that will bring the grand total to over £3000.  I am very grateful to you all – this will help them to help other people in our situation in the future.

St Richard’s is a major local charity, and one can’t live in Worcestershire without being aware of its existence. But I for one didn’t know anything more about it a few months ago. I certainly was not aware of what it offered to those in need. So I thought I would blog a bit about it, and its difference from a hospital, so that you can see where your money has gone.

At the hospital, the staff were totally focussed on Christopher as the patient. Although (almost) everyone was polite and kind to me, I felt somewhat extraneous – I was the driver, the fetcher-and-carrier, and the person who queued in the pharmacy. Rightly so, as Chris was the one being treated, and I had not been referred to them. Some of the junior doctors took this attitude to extremes, and didn’t even bother to find out my name or introduce themselves to me, so focussed were they on treating Christopher as efficiently as possible.

At the hospice, the atmosphere was completely different, from the moment we walked in the door on our recce visit. They are part-funded by the government, so the medical staff all wear NHS badges and the computer systems are integrated with those of the hospital. They even share some of the same medical staff as the hospital. But the over-arching attitude is driven by the ethos of the hospice and is refreshingly different.

The hospice believes in “holistic care” of the patient and their family. Frequently in a healthcare context the word “holistic” really gets my hackles up, as it is a term so often abused to mean  (in my opinion) “alternative quackery”. In this case though, they are using it in its true sense of treating the whole patient – not just the medical needs (as the hospital does) but also the overall situation. Their view was that Chris couldn’t be comfortable unless I was comfortable – and so my welfare both then and indeed continuing on now was just as important as his medical needs. That’s the bit which is funded by the charitable donations, and we were both extremely grateful for it.

Some examples:

I was able to stay all week at the hospice in a very comfortable en-suite family room and, when things got bad, on a camp-bed next to Christopher. I could order meals from reception, so that I never went hungry or had to leave Chris to find food. In fact one day, when things were so grotty that I got distracted and forgot to order any dinner, the team saved a meal for me anyway.

I had a dreadful tension headache the whole time I was there (hardly surprising really), and the nurses were more than happy to hand me some strong pain-killers. Better yet, they arranged for me to have a very comprehensive back-massage from one of the volunteer therapists, which made a huge difference to the knots in my shoulders.

Perhaps the most telling detail occurred a few days before Chris died, when one of the nurses asked me if there was anything at all that they could do to make me more comfortable. I confessed that actually, I’d been meaning to get my hair cut for the last few weeks but had to put it off. It was only a small thing, but my fringe had got so long that I was having trouble seeing out. “No problem” said the nurse – they had a fully-equipped salon in the hospice, and one of the health-care assistants had trained as a hairdresser before changing career. She was more than happy to trim my fringe. And it was done straight away.

All those little details added up over the two weeks that Chris was there. And the care hasn’t stopped even now. One of the family support workers is in regular contact with me to see how I’m doing, and to help talk me through things. She is available to help me for just as long as I need her – whether that be weeks, months, or longer. I’ve also had help with filling in the probate form, and more such help is on offer should I need it.

So overall, the amount of help and physical, practical, and moral support that is available to those in need is staggering, and so very welcome at an extremely difficult time.  All those extras, over and above the exemplary medical care, come out of the charitable donations. And that is what, between us all, we are helping to provide in memory of Christopher.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Richard P | 24 September 2010 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    How lucky we are that St Richard’s offers such superb support to families in the area. All praise and strength to the many staff and supporters who make the hospice so admirable.

  2. Mantina | 30 September 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m please you are still getting the support you need

  3. Veronica | 9 October 2010 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    The care that the hospice movement as a whole gives makes a very real difference to the whole family at a time when there are so many obstacles to be overcome.