I first met St Andrew’s Hospice in May 2019. I’d had my diagnosis of leukaemia several years before – but I was starting to need more help, and my MacMillan nurse referred me to the Hospice.
I went to access their wellbeing service and joined a group where I met and befriended others like me, peoplewho knew how I was feeling. The atmosphere in the Hospice was so warm and friendly. I always say it’s like a ‘hug in a mug’, it’s such a positive place and they can never do enough for you.
In the December of 2019 I took very ill again and was rushed into hospital. Next thing I knew I woke up in bed after two weeks of having seizures and slipping in and out of consciousness to see my family around me looking so worried – they told me I’d been unconscious for two weeks! I had no idea. The Doctor came and told me he was surprised that I was still here and I was one lucky lady who wasn’t giving up. The Doctor and Nurse then had a discussion and told me “We think St Andrew’s Hospice is the place for you to go”, and I thought, “Whoa, okay, so this is D-Day then.” A room became available and my journey being transferred began.
The hospital staff were great, but the difference between there and St Andrew’s really is night and day. It’s a bit like having a holiday in a posh hotel. They settled me in and what was obvious from the very first moment was that their focus was on me, not my illness. Every day they’d ask, “Irene, what would you like to happen today?” They gave me back my ability to control my own life.
I stayed for two months in the end. I felt a little better every day. During my stay I benefited from receiving beauty treatments e.g. Reiki, nails painted, reflexology, were on offer. The therapists would come to my room to give treatments. They helped me with physio – to learn how to walk again after having been stuck in bed for so long. They gave me the strength to be able to go back home – which I did, just before the pandemic arrived in March 2020.
I thought that was it, I’d not be able to have St Andrew’s in my life anymore. But almost immediately they set up online groups for me and the others I’d come to know. They asked,“Are you interested in meeting up on a screen?” I said, “Of course!”
So, that’s how we all stayed in touch. I think our group actually became closer during the pandemic; that shared experience brought us together. St Andrew’s became my touchpoint. In all the confusion, the worry and uncertainty they were my rock, the people I could rely on.
I managed to get back to the Hospice a few times last autumn when things began to relax. It was wonderful to see people in person again – I said to myself, “I’m home, I’m back!”. We have also kept up with our online meetings; we have chats, games and quizzes. It’s become part of our lives. St Andrew’s Hospice are like my extended family now.
Without St Andrew’s I’m sure I wouldn’t be here now. It’s hard to describe it to you, it’s like my candle had gone out – but they re-lit it and that light is still burning brightly. The Hospice are there, helping me and everyone who steps into the Hospice to live and enjoy each and every day the best you can.
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