Memories of their youngest granddaughter sitting on the bed with her husband Gordon, laughing and playing, are some of the most treasured moments Margaret Hunt has of the last months of his life...
The 79-year-old died at their Lostock Hall home last July and Margaret is grateful for the time he was able to spend at home with his family, thanks to the support from St Catherine’s Hospice’s Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) team.
She is now supporting the Open Up Hospice Care campaign, which sees St Catherine’s join with other centres around the country this March to put the spotlight on the care hospices provide outside of their buildings.
Margaret and Gordon, who have five children and 10 grandchildren, were visited by one of the Lostock Hall hospice’s CNS team when Gordon’s health began to
Having battled rheumatoid arthritis for many years, he had undergone spinal surgery in 2012 which left him with reduced mobility, eventually leading him to need a wheelchair. He suffered a heart attack in 2009 and then in September 2017 ended up in hospital battling sepsis. Gordon had also been displaying signs of dementia before this, which deteriorated rapidly following the trauma.
Margaret and the family then faced an agonising decision as to whether he should undergo surgery to amputate his feet which had been left badly damaged by the infection. But doctors advised that such a major operation could take a major toll.
Margaret, 71, explains: “They didn’t even know if he’d get through the anaesthetic or if he’d be able to come out of hospital after
going through something like that. His condition had gone down fast after the sepsis. His dementia became much worse, but he knew and we all knew that being at home was what was the most important to him.
“He wanted to be surrounded by the people who loved him, in a familiar place. As a family, we decided we couldn’t put that at risk so we felt it was better he didn’t go through with the operation. Instead we focused on getting him home. As Gordon’s condition deteriorated further over the following months, the support we got from St Catherine’s helped to keep him comfortable at home, where he could die. Knowing we did what he wanted for those final months is a comfort to us all.”
One thing that raised Gordon’s spirits was playing with his youngest granddaughter, Evelyn, who was only a few months old before he died. Margaret says: “Evelyn absolutely loved her granddad, and he got such a boost out of seeing her, and all of his grandchildren. He loved spending time with them and they were all absolutely fantastic with him. Without the support we got from St Catherine’s, I don’t think we’d have been able to keep him there.”
St Catherine’s Hospice’s clinical specialist nurse helped with a range of issues, including helping to manage Gordon’s pain more effectively. She helped source equipment they needed – including a special bed – and was a constant source of reassurance and support.
The couple, who were married 49 years, also benefited from the St Catherine’s Befriending Service, where a volunteer visited them at home. Margaret, says: “There is something very special about St Catherine’s.”
Margaret says she was happy to support the Open Up campaign to raise awareness of the services St Catherine’s provides at home, admitting she did not know the breadth of support the charity provides.
She says: “I thought St Catherine’s was just for people with cancer. I never knew it was there for people with all kinds of life-shortening illnesses. All the way through his illnesses Gordon would tell me ‘I just want to be at home, with my family, with you’. He’d look me straight in the eye and tell me ‘I really love you’. It was important to me he was at home when he died, where he knew he was loved. The support we got from St Catherine’s allowed that to happen.”