When Becky Beacon was told she had just days to live she wanted to be at home with her family – and the team from John Taylor Hospice ensured her wishes were met. In those last few days the hospice also helped 31-year-old Becky and her family create special moments to cherish.
Becky, of Erdington, was diagnosed with end stage liver failure. Despite undergoing two liver transplants in three years, the mum-of-two was told the condition was terminal. Referred to John Taylor Hospice in April 2019, she was first supported by the Clinical Nurse Specialist Team and was then admitted to the hospice’s Inpatient Unit for symptom support.
“Initially Becky didn’t want to go to the hospice at all. She had spent so long in hospital and thought the hospice would be the same,” says her mum Carol Lawrence. “But she agreed to go in for a weekend and from the minute she went into the hospice she was sold.
“She loved it and the staff were amazing. It was the feel of it being more of a home. It was a warm place for Becky. And she loved the freedom of the children being able to visit and run around the garden. It put a smile on her face and she was more relaxed.
“The nurses would find time to come in and talk to her and she loved that. They didn’t just come in and take her temperature and go they wanted to find out who she was, a bit about her.”
Becky was a hugely popular young woman, so much so that more than 150 people visited her at home in her last few days to say goodbye. Mum to 11-year-old Ma’leiah and five-year-old Khias, Becky was the soul of the party and totally dedicated to her family.
Her sister Emma, aged 36, recalls: “She was one of the kindest people I know. She was always looking after Mom and me – even when she was the one who was sick. She loved to surprise you and always had presents. She had a real sense of humour. She loved to party and would invite everyone to her’s. She loved to be the hostess – even when she was really sick.”
Becky wanted to die at home with her loved ones and members of John Taylor’s Hospice at Home Team were on hand to help.
“Becky had spent most of nearly three years in hospital and for long periods each time and that was really difficult for her because of having two children,” says 56-year-old Carol. “She wanted to come home and pass away with that home feeling environment. It meant the children could be with her right up to the day she passed.
“The Hospice at Home Team was amazing and made that possible for us as a family – for us to bring her home. We were nervous about it as we weren’t sure we could cope with it but to have the team on board for the last week of her life was a blessing. They were like part of the family. Even if we struggled, it made such a difference to know that there was the support there if we needed it.
“And they really understood us. I am of Afro-Caribbean descent and we do things in certain ways but they took all of that on. Things that really mattered to Becky in her personal care because of her mixed descent, they did them all. Becky had the best care she could have possibly wanted.”
During these last few days for Becky at home, the hospice was able to arrange support for Becky and her family through a personal health budget. A new way of funding healthcare and administered by the hospice, PHBs enable patients to choose services and support which matter most to them. The PHB project is able to work in partnership with patients and their families to fund individually tailored care packages to meet their specific needs – and in Becky’s case make special memories.
“It was a real shock for the family because Becky went into hospital as usual, she was always in and out of hospital, and then they told her she had three days to live. It was all so sudden,” says Carol.
“It was coming up to Halloween and Becky had always had a huge Halloween party for her friends and their children with fireworks and all dressed up in costumes. She was well known for organising parties. I don’t know how they did it but the Personal Health Budget Project also organised a Halloween party for Rebecca. They had organised food for the party and masks and costumes for the children, even fireworks.
“The party took place with all the children and we opened the window for the fireworks because, although Becky couldn’t respond any more, she could hear. That was a beautiful thing that the hospice did for us.
“Then also the children were given beautiful memory boxes with things of Becky’s. So she always wore sunglasses and we put the sunglasses and lipsticks and things that were Mommy’s things that she never went without in there.”
The personal health budgets have helped ensure precious memories for Becky’s children.
“The children were given a build-a-bear with her voice recorded in the bear by the hospice’s Inpatient team,” says Carol. “The children go to bed with them every night and they say to me ‘Nanny, say goodnight to Mommy’ because they relate to that bear as their mommy. Those messages were the last things Becky was able to speak. You can hear from her voice that she was struggling but she did it.
“We had a lady come and do hand casts of the children’s hands and their mother’s hands intertwined together. That helped the children through that journey. It was explained that Mommy wanted them to have it so they would remember her.
“That time was very difficult for our family but it was made so special by the support we had from the hospice. I don’t think we could have managed without the hospice, it would have been a very dark time.
“Becky wanted to be at home with the people she loved and the hospice gave her that and I can’t thank them enough for that. Because of the support from the hospice it was made into the beautiful thing that it was.”