Three patients on what the South Buckinghamshire Community Hospice means to them
PUBLISHED: 10:58 29 June 2017 | UPDATED: 10:58 29 June 2017
Last year, we related the uplifting testimonies of three patients at South Buckinghamshire Community Hospice. Now, as the charity moves into a new £4.8m building, another three people tell what the Hospice means to them
Motor Neurone Disease patient Ian Campbell has praised the ‘caring and amazing’ staff at Butterfly House – and says they have helped him to remain positive. Former electrician Ian, 62, a father of four from High Wycombe, is terminally ill with the condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system.
But he says the South Buckinghamshire Community Hospice has been of huge help to him and his family over the last year, despite his initial reservations about going there. “I think the hospice is absolutely wonderful,” he said. “Initially, I was resistant to coming. You have an image in your head of a hospice where people are dying... and it’s not like that at all. It is a place where I come where they keep me more independent. Staff are really friendly. Everybody seems to be happy and everybody cares.”
Ian attends once a week, receiving one-to-one nursing consultations, physiotherapy and complementary therapies. He said: “Recently I came in almost unable to walk after my back went, but by the time I came out, I was standing and walking. Psychologically, I was really low when I came in that day, but I was feeling much more positive when I left the hospice. I would encourage others who need help from a hospice to come here. It’s worth coming just to see and be amazed. It was nothing like how I imagined it to be.”
Ian’s family is equally grateful. Son Mark, a 38-year-old guitar teacher, also receives stress-relieving massages when he attends with his father. “The impression you have of a hospice is that they are gloomy depressing places, but we never feel that here. It is full of life – not death. The staff are wonderful,” he said. “The cards you have been dealt with can make life a lonely place for you to be – but it doesn’t seem so lonely here.”
Ian’s wife June, a 61-year-old counsellor, said the hospice’s strength is the ‘fun and laughter’. She added: “Hospice staff are here as and when you want them. You know there is support and counselling. There is always someone here to help and talk. If we need to ask any questions, they are here.”
Ian, a karate black belt, had previously been fit and healthy, and had completed three London Marathons a few years earlier. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease two years ago, but returned to hospital for checks after the medication didn’t appear to help his mobility and extreme fatigue. It was then that doctors discovered he had Motor Neurone Disease.
“The diagnosis was a complete shock,” he said. “I was told it’s life-limiting – a year to three years. But I now know people can live longer. In the last year, we have been on as many holidays as we can, and done the things we want to do.”
Ian added: “I am more fortunate than so many people. I have got family support. If you don’t have the support I have been fortunate to get, this would make the support from a hospice even more essential. It’s certainly helped me and could help others too.”
When Nita Tapping was invited to a bereavement group after the death of her husband, she feared that going there would only heighten her grief. But three years later, the 76-year-old still regularly attends the monthly session at South Buckinghamshire Community Hospice – saying it has helped her to cope with the devastating loss of husband Mick, aged 74.
And she is full of praise for the hospice for the support and ‘kindness’ it has given in a hugely-difficult period of her life. She recalled: “After Mick died, I had a letter from the hospice asking if I wanted to go to the bereavement group. I thought I cannot see what good it would do and thought it would make things worse.
“But it makes it better because you are with people. Talking makes things better. You are with people who are in the same boat as you and everybody understands what you are going through.”
Senior Nurse Carole Hildreth said: “We welcome Nita and the rest of the group every month. Nita has shown us how the bereavement counselling can help someone cope with the loss of a loved one.”
Nita, who works as a pharmacy assistant in Prestwood, had recently celebrated her Golden Wedding Anniversary with retired engineer Mick before his death from bowel cancer in 2013. She says an ‘inner strength’ helped her cope up until his funeral but the grief really hit her afterwards.
“I know you have to get on with it but you need support,” she said. “I find people here are so friendly. It seems a happy place and I look round and see people who are in worse positions than me. It’s opened my eyes to there being so many kind people about who are there to help you.”
Nita, who has two daughters and three grandchildren, attends the bereavement group once a month on a Tuesday with about eight other people. She says there is a lot of chat… and lots of tears.
“I just think there are so many people at the hospice to help you. I look forward to coming here. It makes me accept things in a different light,” she said.
She also receives calming massages at the hospice and says these really help her relax. Nita, who has made friends at the hospice who she sees socially, described husband Mick as a ‘gentleman’: “He was very calm – a quiet man who was very well liked. I will never get over his death but you learn to live with it.
“I am now coping – I can come here and talk about things. I wish other people realised there is a place to come like this.”
To find out more about the bereavement group, contact Carole Hildreth at email@example.com or call 01494 552750.
Parkinson’s Disease sufferer Francis Halshaw, says going to South Buckinghamshire Community Hospice is one of the highlights of his week.
Francis, 80, a one-time champion swimmer from Maidenhead who now lives in Hazlemere, enjoys socialising with other patients and teaching them card games. But the father-of-four also gets treated to massages, haircuts and beard trims as well as lunch. Another advantage of going to the hospice is that nurses are able to make appropriate referrals if necessary to other experts, such as speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and complementary therapists.
Francis said: “I was feeling lonely at home. I have a good family who visit me regularly, but it’s not the same as going out to see other people. I look forward to coming here. It is one of the highlights of my week.”
He was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease four years ago. The condition affects his walking, co-ordination, speech and swallowing. Previously, he was fit and healthy, enjoying skiing and long distance walking trails in Britain, Spain, France and Cyprus. At the age of 70, Francis was a swimming champion in the veterans’ category, winning two major freestyle competitions in the same year.
But he had to give up swimming about a year ago as his co-ordination deteriorated. He was referred to the hospice in November 2016 and attends Tuesdays to receive therapies, socialise and have lunch, and also comes in on Wednesdays for music therapy.
Senior Hospice Nurse Carole Hildreth said: “Francis loves coming here and socialising but, at the same time, we are able to keep an eye on him and make any referrals he may need. It means he is enjoying himself and having a nice day out while all this therapeutic work is going on in the background. That’s why this differs from a social club or day centre.”
Francis said: “I’ve had some experience of end-of-life treatment – being the youngest of eight children, I am now the only one left – and I did not really expect anything positive about the hospice. I was wrong and found it very well managed. The staff were very positive and also very genuine in their concern to make sure everybody was happy. This was not an accident, but is the result of exceptional management by the head nurse Carole Hildreth.”
Daughter Lesley Mansfield, 51, who is Francis’ carer, praised the Hospice for being so friendly.
“From the family’s point of view, I can drop him off in the morning and go away for a coffee, and then come back knowing Dad’s had a good day,” she said. “The hospice makes you feel so welcome – it’s lovely.”
Francis, who was once manager of the Woolworth store in Oxford Street, London, urged others in a similar position to try out the hospice: “I think it’s wonderful, the staff are fantastic and I get on well with everyone here,” he said.
About the hospice
The South Buckinghamshire Community Hospice is a leading community resource supporting patients living with life-limiting or life threatening illnesses.
It offers patient-centred care to individuals through the provision of specialist palliative, psychotherapeutic and lymphoedema care. It also supports families and their carers.
Established in 1984 as South Bucks Hospice, in High Wycombe, the hospice has recently moved to a purpose built state-of-the-art facility in Totteridge called Butterfly House. The hospice offers a pioneering and new kind of hospice care designed to meet the societal changes we face, mainly people living longer.
As the only palliative day hospice in South Buckinghamshire, it serves over 320,000 people. By the middle of 2018, it is projected that 650 to 800 people a month will be cared for at Butterfly House. It receives less than 3% of its funding from statutory sources and must raise £1.1m each year to continue its work.
For more, see www.sbh.org.uk