This year marks 30 years since St Catherine’s Hospice opened. To celebrate its birthday year, the Lancashire Evening Post is backing the much-loved hospice’s Give a Gift appeal. LAURA WILD speaks to those who make the hospice such a special place
When Shirley Hewitt was given the news she had cancer and there was nothing doctors could do, she lost confidence and retreated into her shell – much to the concern of her family.
Yvonne Reynolds and Karen Morris said their beloved mum, who sadly died at St Catherine’s last month, lost interest in the hobbies and interests which had made up her life.
Yvonne, from Leyland, said: “She used to be a member of groups like the WI and the Widows’ Group who would meet regularly, and she enjoyed puzzles, magazines and reading. But after she was given the news about the cancer, it all stopped.
“Karen, my brother Terry and I were really worried. So when she began attending day therapy at St Catherine’s, we were really pleased – she would have something to stimulate her again.”
Initially Shirley, also from Leyland, hadn’t been keen on the idea of attending a hospice.
Yvonne explained: “I think she had the wrong idea about the place. But my mother-in-law had visited another hospice where she lived when she was poorly, and when I told mum more about it she began warming to the idea. I’d planted a seed, and when the district nurse mentioned St Catherine’s again, she said she’d like to give it a go.”
Yvonne and Karen said they were both so pleased – particularly when Shirley returned from her first session and said how much she had enjoyed it.
“She liked the social side of it, chatting with others, playing the word games together, having a meal. She also visited the complementary therapist which made her feel good, and she liked that she could chat to the nurses or the doctor if she had any concerns.
“It was so reassuring for us to know someone was keeping an eye on her, and it was great that she had something to look forward to again. She never wanted to miss a session and would always arrange any plans around her visit to St Catherine’s.”
As Shirley’s condition deteriorated, she spent time in and out of hospital, before being admitted to the in-patient unit at St Catherine’s towards the end of last year. Her family had made arrangements to look after her at home, reducing hours at work and installing equipment such as a stair lift. But in reality, as their mum’s condition worsened, the situation was not manageable at home.
Yvonne said: “We really wanted to, but we just weren’t able to. Getting Mum as comfortable as possible was the most important thing, and we wouldn’t have been able to do that without the specialist support of St Catherine’s. When she was admitted to the in-patient unit there was a huge sense of relief that she was in the best possible place.”
The family have been so impressed with the care Shirley has received they got together a group to take part in the charity’s Santa Dash in December and raised an amazing £1,400 in vital funds.
It will all help towards the £3.7m the hospice has to raise each year to cover its £5m running costs.
Karen said: “I don’t think we could have coped over the past 12 months without St Catherine’s. Before our experiences, I could never have believed how much they do, not only for the person they’re caring for, but also for families like us too.
“They get to know you, everyone is an individual with their own thoughts and worries and feelings. Nothing is too much trouble.
“Knowing how much they rely on the public’s support to deliver the care they do, we were really keen to do something to help and give a little back. The 30th anniversary of the hospice is a brilliant reason for people to get involved and we hope the community will give their backing to this campaign to ensure it’s a brilliant success.”
Yvonne added: “There’s nothing else like St Catherine’s in this area. We must get behind them and ensure that the funds they need are raised each year because Central Lancashire would be a much poorer place without it.”