“The hospice was our shining light”

Touched by the support her family received when they needed it most, Debbie Franklin shares how John Taylor Hospice helped make every moment matter for her and her beloved mother Helen Gillespie.

“When Mom first started to feel unwell we thought her arthritis in her knee was playing her up. Then one Friday evening she told me she’d been shivering and just couldn’t get warm. By Sunday she had a tremble in her right foot and she was crying – our Mom never cried – and she said to me: ‘Debbie, I know something’s not right.’

From there it all seemed to happen so quickly – the trips to the hospital, the blood tests and the CT scan. Initially they thought Mom might have suffered a stroke but the scan showed that wasn’t what was causing her symptoms. Then came our first bolt out of the blue: it was a brain tumour. Next was the biopsy and the biggest shock of all: it was cancerous, aggressive and Mom’s condition was terminal. I just couldn’t take it all in, I was scared and unable to accept the reality of what lay ahead of us.

Debbie’s favourite photo of her and her mother Helen

Mom was to have 10 sessions of radiotherapy and her wish was to have palliative care. She lived in Washwood Heath so, at just over two miles from home, John Taylor was our local hospice. Her GP made the referral and quickly we received a call from a clinical nurse specialist asking how we were doing and how they could help. 

Our contact with the hospice started with regular phone calls and the occasional visit just to check in and see how we were doing. And that’s all we needed at that stage in our journey – someone to listen and to give us advice and guidance if we needed it. But a few months later Mom’s back began to hurt, her walking started to fail and she was in and out of hospital. John Taylor Hospice teams were now working behind the scenes to step up Mom’s support at home. They got a hospital bed for her living room, prescribed new medication and the nurses came to visit more frequently, helping me with things like turning Mom over in bed.

I’d been living with Mom for nearly six months now, having packed a bag and left my home to stay by her side on that Sunday evening when she broke down in tears. Bob, my husband and partner of 20 years, was always on hand to help too. Mom adored him and he was my rock. Along with my sister and her grandson, our family was everything to her – and she was everything to us.

When the Hospice at Home Team came to visit for the first time they did an assessment and talked through everything with us. While Mom rested, I sat in the garden with one of the nurses and she asked me how I was. All of these emotions just came rushing out and I admitted, probably for the first time, that I was in dire straits. She listened and then said: ‘Debbie, we’re always here for you too. First and foremost, we want you to spend time with your Mom as her daughter, not as her carer’. This touched my heart more than I can express. Being a carer for a loved one can change the dynamic of your relationship. I wasn’t looking after myself and had lost a lot of weight. The hospice team recognised I was struggling, they understood and they genuinely wanted to help.

The Hospice at Home Team visited us every day and the quality of the care they gave was immeasurable. Having been a home carer for most of her career, Mom had a real affinity with the staff helping to care for her and thought they were amazing. Their time, capacity for kindness, compassion and their emotional support really knew no limits.

Following Mom’s diagnosis I had been put in touch with the hospice’s Wellbeing Team for counselling – support that continued until very recently. The sessions gave me a safe space to cry, time for myself and they honestly were a lifeline.

My amazing Mom was 74 when she passed away at home on 4 July 2018. I can’t thank the hospice enough for everything they have done for us and I will always continue to support them in any way I can. They were a shining light in our time of darkness and the impact they made on our lives will never be forgotten.”

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What our patients think

“The care was second to none”

“At such a heartbreaking and difficult time, the nurses and care assistants knew exactly what to do and to say – we’d have been lost without them. The care they provided for my beautiful wife was second to none and I’ll be forever grateful.”

Roger Perks

“Nothing is too much trouble”

“I can’t thank hospice teams enough. From fitting grab rails in my house and ordering a reclining bed, reviewing of all my medication, providing me with new medical equipment and even helping to organise domestic help for us at home – they’ve covered everything but are always willing to do even more.”

Jackie Bannister

“I don’t know where I’d be without them”

“The support I get is truly is invaluable and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them. I’m able to talk openly about my illness and ask for advice and support if I need it. I’ve made some incredible friends and the hospice is a very special place full of laughter and kindness. “

Liz Warren

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