On 11th December 2007, my beloved dad announced much to the astonishment of myself and all the staff at Sue Ryder Hospice, where he was terminally ill with Cancer of Prostate, that he was 'going home tomorrow!' With the concerted efforts of the multi-disciplinary team, his brother who installed a hand-rail to enable him to use the stairs and my employers who gave me leave to care for him, he achieved that goal.
We trundled along for a week or so and exactly a week before christmas day he asked me what day it was, when I replied 'Tuesday' he said 'eight more days', 'eight more days to what?' I asked, - I just have to keep going for eight more days, I don't want to die Christmas day, it sticks with everyone forever' I replied that not to worry because only special people go on such a special day.
Well, come Christmas morning, for the first time he awoke me distressed, I found myself in a difficult situation that he did not want me to cope with. I phoned the district nursing service for help only to be informed that as it was Christmas day there was no service until 8am. They could send a doctor, I did not want a doctor, I needed a nurse - how can anyone be expected by themself to change the bedding and clothing of a person in a king size bed who had a plastercast around his whole arm, collar bone and chest with no strength to move? Anyway, I was his daughter, not his nurse and neither of us wanted me to go 'there'
We got around the situation as best as possible and to settle him back down I climbed into bed with him, reassuring him until he fell back to sleep.
He died later that day at 12.00
At his funeral, a friend of his came up to me and told me what a wonderful job I had done and to 'never stop what you are doing'. You see, I was not only his daughter and main carer, I was part of the Multi-disciplinary team that had enabled him to fulfil his wish to die at home, (albeit not on his preferred day!) I am an experienced, qualified District and Palliative Care Nurse.
I remained at Sue Ryder for another year but in those latter few months realised that being there was preventing me from moving on in my greif. I left and reverted back to District Nursing in a temporary post for 6 months and am now working to set up a Hospice @ Home Service here in The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. My experience left me to wonder: 'If I, with all my previous experience struggled to cope in that situation, how on earth do lay people with no previous knowledge or experience of palliative care cope?' They do because they care, and hopefully recieve supportive palliative care in whichever environment they have chosen to be.
I have always truly believed, and now more so than ever, that how well patients and their families are supported, can make all the difference as to how well those left behind manage in picking up the pieces and carrying on.
P.S. no picture attatched at this time but can do at another time if needed.