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“The quality of care provided by the team at the hospice was, by any standard, exceptional.” - Ben Lowery

“The quality of care provided by the team at the hospice was, by any standard, exceptional.” - Ben Lowery

*First Published in 2018

Earlier this year most of the country was covered in a blanket of snow by the Beast from the East. During this time the nurses, health care assistants, doctors and family support team continued to provide care, support and activities to local families.

One patient we cared for this year was Yvonne Lowery, who passed away peacefully in her sleep at the hospice on 2 March. Her husband, Ben, and her beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Emily, were at her side. Ben shared this letter with Eden Valley Hospice.

“Yvonne was an amazing person – she had an unquenchable zest for life. She fought her illness bravely, and was determined to never give in. So, I’m sure you will understand that she was incredibly reluctant to be an in-patient at the hospice because of what this represented in terms of her condition.

“We had been working with the hospice since last summer, after she was diagnosed with the new tumour and was told it was terminal, so she was familiar with the facility and a number of the staff. Even so, when Dr Sundar first suggested that Yvonne should come and stay at the hospice for a few days so the team could get her pain under control, she was very unwilling to entertain the idea.

“Nevertheless, on the day of admission, Yvonne was still very nervous, not really knowing what to expect.

“It is a credit to the hospice ward staff who were all so approachable and friendly that, within an hour of arriving, Yvonne felt fully at home and she was sitting up in bed beaming at all the staff as they came in to introduce themselves.

“Although she was only with the hospice for four days before she passed away, it was obvious that the staff had developed a real affection for Yvonne.

“The quality of care provided by the team at the hospice was, by any standard, exceptional. I say this as someone who has been on a 14-year journey with Yvonne since her first cancer diagnosis and through all her treatment in ‘regular’ NHS hospitals in Cumbria and Newcastle. Whilst we experienced a lot of good, even great, care by the NHS I can honestly say that none of the many hospital teams achieved the level of care provided by the hospice team.

“The level of professionalism and capability of the staff is a given and was never less than excellent. However, what makes the hospice so very special is almost impossible to define in words. There’s a real sense that all the staff are working seamlessly together with the same aim – to provide the best possible care at all times for the patients. When I say “all the staff” I mean the entire hospice team, from receptionists, kitchen staff and cleaners through to the medical staff and all the other functions.

“This holistic and compassionate approach to care pervades the hospice – it’s an invisible yet deeply felt atmosphere of warmth, love and gentle humour that I sense every time I’m in the hospice. Nothing is ever too much trouble; no request is ever dismissed out of hand. If help can be given, it is – without fuss. If a request is unreasonable, a full explanation is given and alternative options are suggested

“In the days that Yvonne was with the hospice, her pain and agitation increased unbelievably quickly. For the last couple of days, she was unconscious and it fell to myself and Yvonne’s sister, Helen, to buzz for help when Yvonne was showing signs of pain and distress. I am still amazed at how responsive and helpful the medical team were.

“There wasn’t a single occasion when I was told that there wasn’t anything else that could be done for Yvonne’s suffering. The staff were always able to do something, whether that was giving her additional medication or simply moving her in bed so she was more comfortable.

“It is this holistic and patient centred approach to care which truly impresses me. The feeling that every member of the team (paid and voluntary) cares about the patients and is working to ensure the high standards of treatment and wellbeing is provided at all times.

“I should also point out that I noticed and was incredibly grateful for the attention and care given to myself and Yvonne’s sister and brother-in-law at what was clearly a difficult time for us. Whilst the staff always had Yvonne’s care as their number one priority (quite rightly so), they always took the time to check that we were ok, too. I always felt fully included in Yvonne’s care and the staff always took the time to explain what treatment was being carried out and why.

“It is also worth noting that Yvonne was in the hospice during the heavy snowfall at the very end of February and the beginning of March. The dedication of the staff in battling to get to work and sleeping over at the hospice to ensure care was provided impressed me deeply. Although the hospice was inevitably running on reduced staffing levels, I never felt that the essential frontline care which Yvonne needed was compromised in any way.

“So, thank you again to the hospice team. I am so grateful that Yvonne was able to spend her last few days in such a wonderful place surrounded by amazing, unsung heroes. She passed in a dignified manner surrounded by love.”

Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw would like to thank everybody in the local community who provided and offered help during the snowy conditions in February and March. Your kindness, support and generosity is appreciated by everybody at the hospice. Thank you.

The kindness, support and generosity of Yvonne’s family, friends and loved ones has helped to raised over £3,000 in aid of Eden Valley Hospice. Yvonne’s funeral collection raised over £1,400, whilst a family friend, Richard Elliott, has raised £1,965 after completing the Marathon des Sables in April.