Many of us will access support from a hospice in our lifetime, either for ourselves or a loved one. But do we really know what they do?
The unique stories of 40 patients, families, staff, volunteers and fundraisers have been captured to tell the story of St Gemma’s Hospice and the often surprising truth about hospice care – care that has only been made possible thanks to your support.
Each person has been photographed by the fantastic Olivia Hemingway, who specialises in portraits of people with a natural, relaxed style.
The powerful series demonstrate strong feelings of hope, love, happiness, humour and bravery. Whether you have a strong relationship with St Gemma’s Hospice or know nothing about it, this series is a chance to meet some of the people behind your local hospice.
Click on the photos below to view the full images and read their stories.
When I was a child I was frightened of hospitals because my Mum was very ill. She had MS, and was only 46 when she died. I had to have an old head on young shoulders, but I do know that her illness had an effect on me and made me want to nurse.
I loved every minute of it although it is work that you have to like, one must not be half-hearted about it.
You always had to know what to say, and when not to say it, when to speak, and when to be quiet. Even if people are not talking, you are listening, and you are feeling it, especially younger people when they die. That is one of the hardest parts.
And St Gemma’s are in my Will too, because hospices are very necessary places, I definitely think that. They allow people to end their days peacefully and with dignity.
Many people said ‘I don’t know how you could do that sort of work! You must be hard’, which is definitely on the contrary as far as I’m concerned. It is so very necessary to be a very kind, caring, unselfish person.
Like Roz, you can leave a gift in your Will to St Gemma’s Hospice. Find out how at www.st-gemma.co.uk/legacies
It wasn’t what I expected, it was lovely. We had a few Saturday nights in St Gemma’s. We sat there one Saturday and I did all her make-up and we had a movie night and Domino’s and all sorts.
I did all mum’s make-up that night, spent ages doing all of it and then we just sat and watched films and stuff. It was so good that you could stay whenever you wanted.
We took the dogs there at one point didn’t we? Which was really lovely. I took them in and everyone was saying “Aww look at these” walking down the corridor. That day I’d had their hair cut, I’d had them bathed and everything, I had them all in new collars, new leads, got little jumpers and coats on and stuff.
We try and make family life as normal as possible. Find out more about our family support team at https://www.st-gemma.co.uk/family-support
He looked after me when I had cancer, now it’s my turn.
The carers’ group’s fantastic. I’ve made some of my closest friends there.
I can say things in there that I can’t say to him. I know that sounds awful and I’m not going to talk about him, but it’s just about me then. I can focus on how I’m feeling, because I’m devastated.
He might not think it, but when ‘owt happens to him I’ll be devastated, it’ll be like having my arms and legs chopped off.
You can explain it there, or if you’ve had a bad week, or if he’s been nasty to me, because he does, and I’m nasty to him. When you’re in the same environment all the time with each other you’re bound to rub off wrong, especially if he’s not well.
We’re not saints, we’re just people going through a difficult time.
The Carers’ Group at St Gemma’s provides support to people looking after someone with a terminal illness. Find out more at www.st-gemma.co.uk/day-services/carers-group
It’s been about 3 years in June I’ve been working here. I used to work in another Hospice in London; I was there for 15 years.
I’ve always liked working in hospices. I think it’s a nice place to work, the people are nice, the patients. Even though it’s sad, the patients are very nice. It’s better than working in other places; it’s very calm and easy going.
Laundry’s my favourite. When I used to work in London I used to do it there. The teamwork keeps me motivated, I get on with everybody, and the people that I work with are all great.
If I tell people that I work in a Hospice I have to explain it to people, explain what a hospice is. I say, well it’s nice to work in a hospice, helping people.
It never smells clinical, you walk into this place and it smells very fresh and like someone’s home.
Outstanding care is also about fresh bedding and fluffy towels. Help support our work at www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
Nobody ever knows. You take life as it comes; at least I have been happy enough with mine.
You’ve just got to continue on to the end and enjoy it, no good moping about anything.
It makes a lot of difference. We’ve got a family with no secrets. Daughters, sons, kids, grandkids, they all know about it. It makes a big difference when you are aware of it. It all came about extremely suddenly. When it happens, it happens. We’re getting by.
You’ve got to look after these places as best you can. What they’ve done at present is amazing. I expected to come in and go out, or to go in and stop in. I didn’t expect to come out with all this attention because you know they’re doing almost everything for me. I am looking forward to going home.
They look after you very well. The level of attention is amazing; you can’t get that attention in a hospital. What else can I ask for? The staff are very good, it’s nice to go somewhere and have no complaints, just the opposite.
Nearly half of people who come into St Gemma’s Hospice are helped to go home again. Find out more about our services at www.st-gemma.co.uk/for-patients
Since being involved in this project Ernie was able to go back home, before returning to the Hospice where he sadly died. We are so grateful for all your support that made his care possible.
I work clinically two days a week supporting community services, which means I undertake outpatient clinics and visits. I also provide medical advice and support to the community nursing team.
I enjoy helping people at this difficult stage of their lives, particularly improving pain and symptom control.
I spend the rest of the week at the Academic Unit, in partnership with the University of Leeds, where I lead a team of 10 research staff. I hope that the Academic Unit can improve clinical care through research, teaching and putting evidence into practice.
The Academic Unit works with other professionals, for example training local GPs to help improve care for patients across Leeds and not just here in the Hospice. The research we do improves the end of life for people here in Leeds, across the country and globally.
Find out more about the work of the St Gemma’s Academic Unit of Palliative Care at www.st-gemma.co.uk/AcademicUnit
When I first put myself forward to volunteer at St Gemma’s in 2014 I was nervous about coming back; St Gemma’s was a big part of my family’s life as they looked after my mum, Anne, who sadly died when I was seven. I wasn’t sure how I would feel visiting again.
I needn’t have worried, St Gemma’s is such a special place, and though they help people in some of the most difficult times, there is always a sense of peace, purpose and happiness. I soon got stuck in, becoming a regular events volunteer and making friends along the way.
When I sent the email to the fundraising team back in 2014 I didn’t know I was making one of the best decisions I could make, I’ve gained confidence, skills and met a whole load of great people.
Everyone who volunteers at St Gemma’s has their own reasons, their own story and listening to them you soon understand what a wonderful place St Gemma’s is.
Volunteering at St Gemma’s has been an enjoyable, interesting and varied experience – I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in lots of different activities from selling raffle tickets and tea and cakes at the vintage fairs through to assisting at big events such as the Winter Ball and even throwing coloured powder at runners at a colour run.
Find out more about volunteering at St Gemma’s fundraising events visit www.st-gemma.co.uk/volunteering
I’ve worked here 17 years. I came to work here after my dad had been an In-Patient 25 years ago and the care that he received made me want to come and work here.
I work here because I care about the patients in the rooms, they’re what I’m here for.
People always expect it to be a sad place and it’s not a sad place. It’s being able to give quality of life while people have got a life. Quite often that’s a sense of fun, a sense of enjoying the time that’s left.
What I particularly enjoy doing is arranging special things for people. It can be the simplest thing but it means something to them and that’s a really good thing to do.
Recently we had a young lady and she wanted to be able to take her daughter to London but she was too ill for that. It was Halloween so we decorated the room with spider’s webs and all sorts. We did her room up and then we got them some pretend fizz, because her daughter was only 10.
She was just amazed, she realised she didn’t have to go anywhere, she could have everything there with her daughter and they had a special evening together.
It can also be something as simple as when a lady just wanted rollers putting in. That is the important thing to people, bringing a bit of normality into someone’s life when they’re at their lowest point really. That’s what I enjoy.
The number of people that say when they come through the doors they can feel the calm. People often say ‘you speak to us like you’ve known us forever’, you meet people and you can just put them at ease.
Help bring joy to peoples’ final days. Support St Gemma’s at www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
My sister-in-law was only in St Gemma’s for about 10 days. She was pretty bad when she was at home. I don’t know what it is; the Hospice seems to change them. Obviously they are very sick, but they sort of calm down when they are in there.
I know the staff are great there. We knew she was getting the best of care in the best place for her.
When I saw the wing walk advertised I told everyone that I was doing it for Teresa. She was born and bred here in Garforth.
I’ve done gliding at Sutton Bank. I did go up in a First World War biplane in Sherburn-in-Elmet. My late wife Molly booked a Hot Air Balloon ride for my 50th birthday, that’s where it all started.
I’m probably getting too old for doing daft things like this. I think if I can do something next year, I’ll perhaps try another parachute jump.
I was pleased I raised the money; it was about £1300 I got on my own. There’s quite a few people have passed away in St Gemma’s, so they know. You don’t have to explain. When you say St Gemma’s people know.
Whatever your age, challenge yourself for St Gemma’s events.st-gemma.co.uk
It’s over 25 years since I first became involved with St Gemma’s. I spent twelve years up to my retirement as a social worker and I have many moving and happy memories of that time.
Retirement is ok, but I missed St Gemma’s so here I am as a volunteer for the Children and Young People’s Service. I love working with my colleagues. My main job is to respond to new referrals and to help with the special events and activities which we run for the children and young people.
It’s amazing how they all get on together. This glove puppet, Scarlet, is just one of the many means we use to talk to the children and help them relax. The death of a loved one can be traumatic and frightening at any age, but we all work together to provide a safe space where these things can be worked through. I love joining in the activities, but most of all to see the return of a child’s smile.
Your donations could help bereaved children across Leeds. Donate today at www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
I came over from Ireland on the 8th of November 1977 and I was there [at St Gemma’s Hospice] from November to the April before we opened getting everything ready.
I was always happy to be there, I like my work. It was a new project for us, it was something very new.
If you start something and it continues in a good way I think that’s wonderful. The Hospice is beautiful now. It’s all progress and I think that’s wonderful.
The staff was great, they were very loyal. Even years and years after they would always write to me and we always kept very close together. Whatever happened in the kitchen, stayed in the kitchen.
I remember exactly when Terry came in the first day because I had got the word that he was going to be an awkward patient and that he would eat very little. So I went round to him and the first thing he ate that day was scrambled eggs and toast and cream crackers and cheese, it’s funny the way you remember.
You got to know all the relatives and all that and you’d always make sure that they had something to eat as well, they’d come in on their way home from work to see their loved ones.
We’d always let them know every day that we were thinking about them, that they weren’t just a number. I think that’s really important.
Their vision created your hospice. Donate today and keep it evolving: www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
When they said you could just drop-in to Day Hospice it was really nice to know it was there in the background.
You can say things in the Day Hospice that you cannot say to friends. You can come if you feel low. There is an acceptance, a gentle acceptance of where you are at that time. It feels like a really important back-up.
When I first started coming last year I was thinking ‘Go to a hospice? No way!’ At the time I was teaching yoga and doing all sorts, but over time I have come to value its presence. It’s not serious, you can have a laugh. It can be as light hearted as you want. I think it’s really valuable.
I think for me it is the support aspect. I’m not a great one for saying ‘I’m on this drug or this has happened’; I like to take each day as it comes. I have an active social life. I have been to a group before where everybody has been quite depressed and you absorb it and that’s not for me, and you don’t have that here. There are so many different things you can do and there are other like-minded people.
When I came last year I did quite a bit in the art room and I keep saying I am going to do more. I do lots of crafty things at home. In fact I am in the middle of upholstering a chair.
Help patients like Ann live every day to the full. Donate today at www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
I first exhibited at the St Gemma’s Art Exhibition in 2003. The most lasting effect was that I had found a way that I could in my own small way help raise funds for such an amazing cause.
As well as being on the Art Exhibition Committee, I have also spent time in the Art Room at the Hospice helping day patients with their art in its many forms.
At the 2015 Exhibition I was voted Best in Show and was therefore the Featured Artist in 2016, it was at this time I was asked whether I would do the St Gemma’s 2017 Christmas Card. I was both humbled and thrilled to be asked and was only too pleased to say yes.
What a task I’d set myself. As a result I spent many hours walking the streets looking for the view that would capture a wintery Leeds that everyone would recognise. Many sketches later, I arrived at the view of the Town Hall as seen from Park Square. Having found the view now was the time for “artistic licence” to kick in, firstly add some snow, next Christmas lights in the trees and finally a wreath on the facing door, job done.
I’m pleased to say the 2017 Christmas Card was a great success with more than 7,000 cards being sold. Though no sitting on my laurels as I’ve now agreed to do the 2018 Christmas Card. I’d better get walking those Leeds streets again.
What John may have considered a small gesture raised nearly £4000. Use your skills to support St Gemma’s, www.st-gemma.co.uk/how-you-can-help
I got quite involved with St Gemma’s and I was amazed at what I learnt. I just thought of it as a place where you go to die of cancer so it was very tunnel vision.
Now I’ve been there a few times it’s a lovely place, they do amazing things. I’m quite a spiritual person so I was very interested from that point of view. I think very often at the end of life, that’s when people turn to their spirituality, their faith. So far I’ve been really impressed with what they’ve done.
My uncle was in St Gemma’s, he died of cancer. I still didn’t really know much about it, I just visited. Since coming and getting involved, I’ve learnt more about it and the things you do.
The word ‘hospice’ was affiliated with doom and gloom and death, but now I’ve learnt differently. I had a tour around the place and I can see that people can make it very homely; they put a lot of effort into it.
I think in my community, which is the South Asian community, a lot of people don’t even know what a hospice is. The ones that do know probably think it’s a place where you just go and die, that’s it. I think the younger people are a bit more clued up compared to the older generation. The message is getting out there through people like us and what you’re doing.
There are lots of myths about hospice care. Find out more about the reality of St Gemma’s Hospice here: www.st-gemma.co.uk/MythBusting
Who would have thought a dinner table conversation would lead to over 40 years of being part of the Hospice.
The past 40 years hold many cherished memories. These include watching my children dig the first sod for the Hospice, writing Hospice shopping lists and securing donors to buy bricks, sheets, ambulances.
Jumble sales and fashion shows evolved into a charity shop. The first shop was a former outhouse in the Hospice grounds. The shop was so successful that larger premises had to be found. It was not politically correct for men to try trousers on in the car park!
In 1984 I became the manager of St Gemma’s charity shop on Harehills Lane. From small beginnings our Hospice has grown from strength to strength. We now have 23 charity shops.
I will never tire from feeling the buzz of raising funds to enable Hospice care to be provided. I am very proud of the Harehills team and their endless dedication, and all the fellow fundraisers I have met along the way.
Join our team by visiting www.st-gemma.co.uk/vacancies
You weren’t very well at all, but St Gemma’s have really got you on your feet haven’t they. And if we’ve got any problems we end up ringing up. Mummy’s never ever had anyone look after her as well as here.
It’s just nice to know you’ve got that support from them and if I need to speak to them at all I’ve got a number that I can just ring.
They’re very good at Day Hospice because what they’ll say is ‘you just go’ and I’ll go outside and Mummy, you download a lot to them that I don’t really know, but they’ll then correspond with me. And I’ve then got a true picture from them of how I could do it better, or what I shouldn’t do, things like that. It’s just that help that you need and it’s just wonderful.
How can I explain. It is so so beautiful, everywhere you go it is super. The rooms, everywhere, it’s all set up lovely. Just so much of it, you can’t believe how. It must have taken the 40 years to get it like it is, it is gorgeous. Everyone is just so perfect.
When Mummy has been poorly and we’ve gone back they’ve done your oxygen, urine tests, blood pressure, they’ve done everything for you there haven’t they. And we’ve been laughing while you’ve been having it done haven’t we?
Mummy’s got 5 children and she’s got 15 grand-children, 31 great-grandchildren and she’s got 1 great-great-granddaughter haven’t you Mummy?
Sometimes she’ll say don’t tell anyone but you are proud of it aren’t you.
The thing is Norma, my life has changed so much since I came here. It’s just different now. Different. I don’t think of going back.
We are a good team aren’t we Mummy?
The 24-hour helpline at St Gemma’s means that advice for carers and patients are always only a call away. Find out more at www.st-gemma.co.uk/day-services
I have been Chief Executive of St Gemma’s since 2010. It’s a job I love for a Hospice that means a huge amount to me, both personally and professionally.
I work with compassionate, dedicated and professional people as part of a Hospice and a city that is always trying to make care better for the people of Leeds. The most important part of my role is safeguarding and building on the amazing work started by the Sisters of the Cross and Passion 40 years ago, as we care for local people when they need us most.
I am in awe of our incredible community who raise most of the funds for St Gemma’s care every year. I’m also really proud of leading the St Gemma’s team to achieve an Outstanding rating from the Care Quality Commission and to become the first ever University Teaching Hospice.
My lovely Dad received care from St Gemma’s in 2013. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and died only 7 weeks later. St Gemma’s staff cared for him at home and on the Moors Ward. From the moment he was admitted to the ward my Dad changed from being a sick man to being Les again; he recovered his sense of self and his dignity, he once again became a husband, father, grandfather and friend.
That has been really important to us as a family as we have looked back at Dad’s life and death. We are so grateful too for the ongoing support from St Gemma’s, helping family members through bereavement and providing opportunities for us to pause and remember.
Join the St Gemma’s Hospice team. See our current vacancies at www.st-gemma.co.uk/vacancies
My St Gemma’s journey started 13 years ago working as a corporate volunteer in the gardens. I knew what St Gemma’s did but at that stage had never got under the skin of what volunteering would mean to me.
I then experienced the great care St Gemma’s gave my late father; the care was exceptional and this inspired me to give more back to St Gemma’s.
Since then it’s been a privilege to work in the gardens, you really get a true perspective of what the gardens mean to both the patients and their families. The garden provides a place for quiet contemplation of lives well lived and loved.
I never appreciated that the gardens are an oasis for all during turbulent times. It’s great that we can also support patients who want to help with tasks around the garden and in the greenhouse. I like to think that our work provides some extra support to all.
I am privileged to be one of the many volunteers; it’s like being in one big extended family. I have made many great friends and have tried to give a bit back to St Gemma’s, a wonderful and inspiring organisation.
I cannot recommend volunteering for St Gemma’s highly enough, it’s great, it feeds the soul and makes you a better person, and helps you to put your busy lives in perspective.
Join Janet and become a volunteer today by visiting https://www.st-gemma.co.uk/volunteering
When my Grandad passed away I was quite upset and I was thinking for a long time about doing something.
I thought something like a bake sale, or a coffee morning, would raise a lot of money so I did that. It was really in memory of my grandad, I wanted to do something for him and in memory of him.
It was quite exciting being able to organise a big thing and to see how much I’d raised in the end. It was more official than doing a bake sale at school because people came who I didn’t know, people from the community.
I planned what everyone was going to do and I was making sure that everything was going well; I welcomed people and told them what it was about.
I was proud, I thought I had only raised around 60 pounds which is still good, but 400 odd pound is really good.
[St Gemma’s Hospice] was a relaxing environment instead of it being like a hospital where everyone was being rushed around. With the garden and everything it was a nice environment for when someone’s going to pass away. Instead of being in a hospital room all the time, they can go where they want inside the Hospice and it was a really good environment.
Follow in Jake’s footsteps and organise your own fundraiser. Get your Big Four-O pack at www.st-gemma.co.uk/big40 and raise money during St Gemma’s 40th Anniversary.
“Lynne, my wife, passed away in December 2006 and was in the hospice for 4 weeks, during which time I lived at the hospice alongside her.
Our daughter Rebecca was going to be 21 in the January and our eldest daughter Victoria was to be married in the May. The Hospice helped us to arrange a celebration on the ward and blessing ceremony in the chapel, so we could all celebrate these occasions with our family and friends. Lynne passed away 2 days after the blessing, but thanks to all the staff she was able to see these milestones in her daughters’ lives ahead of time.
I feel the same now as I did the day my wife died. Going to the Hospice is like going back home. You are made so welcome and that’s by everybody. I still see staff, it may only be once a year, who knew my wife and they will always ask how I am and ask after the girls.
I can’t give back moneywise everything they did for her; that’s why I volunteer as a van driver, I love doing the job. I used to say that anytime I got fed up I’d stop, but over 10 years later I haven’t got to that stage.”
Find your local St Gemma’s shop by visiting www.st-gemma.co.uk/charity-shops
Shortly after my father died the palliative nurse from St Gemma’s contacted me. She’d seen the set-up. There was only me and dad and she knew that because I was totally involved in my Dad’s care and I had given up my job to be with my Dad; I would have nothing else to keep me busy, other than feeling the full brunt of the grief and the loss.
I didn’t know what was out there in terms of me for support because my dad hadn’t even come into St Gemma’s. But she picked up on the fact that she knew I would struggle. She just said to me, I’m going to arrange for you to have bereavement counselling.
In the first few days you don’t know what’s happening to you, and you feel like you’re going out of your mind. There’s nobody else to say this is normal.
For a good two years my Bereavement Counsellor was there, my constant contact, I would have a chat with her and she’d see me in my rawest form. It was the first time that somebody had actually validated what I was going through, and that was very important to me.
If you can imagine hitting rock bottom, in an earthquake where buildings have collapsed, you’re not protected from the elements, you’re exposed completely and you’re on the floor and you can’t get up. That’s where I was. The counselling helped me to crawl my way to just get on my knees in order to stand up. It was the most painful experience, but I would have struggled if I hadn’t had the support from St Gemma’s. Because there was nobody who could understand my journey and walk with me.
I never saw my Dad as an old man. He was my dad and he was always there for me. And even when he was frail he still had my back, and suddenly the person who had my back wasn’t there. So suddenly you realise you’re completely on your own, it’s at that point that you need someone to hold your hand and that’s where St Gemma’s came in.
What St Gemma’s does is that it understands very acutely the journey of the person who’s dying and the journey of those people close to that person, and it supports them. The journey would have been a lot harder if it hadn’t been for the support, and the quiet place I’d come and just be me.
It’s been 4 years, 4 months, and I still feel like St Gemma’s is there for me.
St Gemma’s is about more than patients, we’re there for families too. Find out about our bereavement services at www.st-gemma.co.uk/bereavement-support
I am proud to be a part of the history of St Gemma’s and proud that I can give amazing care to patients and their families. The reputation is widely known and I’ve been able to contribute to this over four years.
I work with a fantastic team of people who all strive to give the best possible care we can. We go above and beyond to make the patient’s experience as good as it can be.
We all come across patients and families who we build up a relationship with and that can affect us emotionally. We support each other through the tough times, are a shoulder to cry on and we are there to have a laugh with. We understand each other as we experience the same emotions.
This job is very rewarding as a team of caring colleagues we all have the same goals, to give the best at a time when it is most needed.
We have provided afternoon tea, sent anniversary flowers to a patient’s wife when he couldn’t get out. We decorate rooms when it’s a milestone birthday. Colleagues have made cards and bunting and planned celebrations.
A lady was admiring one of my pens and the next day I brought her one in. She was tearful, happy tears. She said it made her feel like she was still a person who mattered, despite being poorly in the Hospice.
Join our Outstanding team of nurses. Find out more at www.st-gemma.co.uk/nurses
I started here 28 years ago. I just got a good feeling at the interview that this is where I wanted to work. I came to join the Maintenance and Driving Team. Back then, at 08.30 my first job was to collect the Day Hospice Nurses then to drive around Leeds collecting patients visiting the Day Hospice. There were some real characters and some fantastic people – we always had a laugh.
The patients keep me motivated over the years; I think we’re all the same here. I’m supposed to finish at 16.30 but if there’s a patient that needs any maintenance repairs, such as a broken TV or something, I would stay until the job is sorted for them and they are happy.
I’ve been here nearly 29 years now but it doesn’t feel like it. The time just flies by. In 28 years I think I’ve only missed working at one Garden Party and I’ve worked at every Light up a Life event. We always get the thousands of lights on the trees just in time for the event to start; it takes a good fortnight in all weathers to do, on top of day to day duties, but it’s worth it seeing the trees lit up in the car park for the festive season.
I feel that my role here is important supporting the other teams to care for the patients. I love making sure that if something needs doing, it gets done as best you can. If there is a problem you’ve got to make sure it’s resolved as soon as possible. The patients always come first.
It takes more than nurses to make a Hospice. Your donations keep St Gemma’s going. www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
I started attending counselling at St Gemma’s because my Grandma was dying of pancreatic cancer.
Her name was Anita, she was very close to me because she looked after me from being 6 months old and we would do everything together. I liked going to garden centres with her and she told me all about flowers and what season they blossomed in. Grandma Anita taught me how to knit, bake, garden and sew.
When I went to see my counsellor Jackie I felt safe to tell her exactly how I was feeling and everyone at the Hospice was really lovely, even walking down a corridor the staff would smile at you. When Grandma was in St Gemma’s it was a bit upsetting to see her there but I felt comfort that all the lovely people were taking good care of her.
I used to go with grandma [to the knit and natter group] in the school holidays and all the ladies were lovely and helped me with my knitting. It was nice to meet Grandma’s friends and help make teas and coffees. They raised lots of money for lots of charities, which I thought I was really kind of them.
I really liked the trip to Lineham Farm and met lots of other children going through similar things to me. I enjoyed the Christmas party as well. Unfortunately I’ve missed a few activities because I’ve been poorly with my Crohn’s.
The St Gemma’s Young Peoples’ Service supports children and young people when someone in their family is seriously ill or has died. Find out more about their work at https://www.st-gemma.co.uk/young-peoples-service
Mum, she was a hyper caring person. Once we’d flown the coop she needed somewhere to release her caring powers so she worked in the caring industry.
She would come here often with us as children, to Roundhay Park. We’d have fun, just like everybody else, like today really. It has special resonance with me because we’d come with my sister and my mum and my grandad and my dad, and that never ever happened. That’s a beautiful thing; it’s just a really good memory for me.
Now the thing is with St. Gemma’s is I didn’t even expect or realise that she’d ever use it. She got cancer, she went through her treatment and then the day that she decided not to go ahead with the chemotherapy she said ‘I don’t want to continue with it, this will end up killing me’.
Things progressed, she got worse and then she came to St Gemma’s and she really looked forward to it. It gave her a focus and something to do. She’d get all these tasks done, she was always a do-er, I guess all mums are like super women.
Even down to the funeral, she arranged that; we were left just to grieve. The legacy she left was that if I was a fraction of what she was, I’d be happy.
St Gemma’s Hospice helps people to get their affairs in order. Support our work at www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
It’s a good place to be. The staff are amazing here. You’re anxious about being on your own at the minute, you want somebody with you. The fact that we can stay over is really good. It’s such a different place to being in a hospital, it’s very calm. You can have what you want, when you want.
You were reluctant to come; you didn’t want to get out of your house did you? You wanted to be at home and you still want to be at home. The eventual aim is to get you home but you needed to come here and get things sorted.
It’s great being at home and we’ve got nurses available but you’ve got to ring them and it can take an hour for them to come out. And it’s us making those decisions, and we shouldn’t have to make them for her, it should be nurses and doctors and so we can just enjoy being together.
With your help families can stay together and be there for each other. www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
Sadly, Hilary died in the weeks after having her photograph taken. We are so grateful to Susanne and all of Hilary’s family for allowing us to share her story.
When we go on the ward it is often the relatives that get excited to see her. It breaks the day because it’s a normal thing. You always have great reactions. The staff really love to see them so why not benefit everybody; staff, patients and relatives.
I think it’s nice having a dog around and it’s something to look forward to. It’s so unusual to see a dog in this setting I think. It makes it a bit more special really.
I always say ‘I am Heather and this is Milly, I’m pleased to meet you’. If somebody doesn’t have any visitors with them I’ll spend longer chatting about things, because obviously it’s nice to see people.
I’m not medical, I’m not chatting about why they’re in here it’s more general chit-chat. You’re not a poorly person to me, you’re just a person and I see you as a person, not as an ill person.
Obviously if they’re in bed they can’t always sit up even, but just having her in the room or if they see their relatives with her, that gives them joy.
I thought we‘d just make a difference to the patients but it really is the relatives and the staff too. Obviously there are difficult days and it just brightens them up. It’s a welcome distraction for everyone here.
Therapy dogs are just one of the ways we promote a positive approach to living in our Day Hospice. To find out more about our weekly drop-in service for anyone with a life-limiting illness or their families and carers, visit https://www.st-gemma.co.uk/day-services/drop-in
Our workplace is dedicated to St Gemma’s. You have a great team there. What a great cause it is.
Simon who runs this place is very family orientated. He was upset more than anyone when someone who worked here died in there; I think Simon went every other week to visit him and that’s how it all started with St Gemma’s.
I can tell you now that they’ll all be trying to beat each other in the fundraising run! It does bring together teambuilding and morale. There’ll be a lot who’ll be trying to get some more donations. Already it’s a competition between who’s going to come first, second and third. That’ll be the fun thing.
People are always talking about it being such a great cause. It’s obviously rewarding.
We’ve put four teams in the Golf Day, We’ve done the Winter Ball for three years, and this’ll be our fourth. We’ll continue to support St Gemma’s for the foreseeable future. It’s a great place.
Find out how your company can support St Gemma’s at work www.st-gemma.co.uk/corporate-support
Before I started working at St Gemma’s I remember driving past the Hospice on numerous occasions. I just felt the need to be able to put my work as a complementary therapist to extra special supportive use. I have always believed and felt very passionate about using complementary therapy alongside conventional medicine for a complete holistic approach.
I was delighted to be accepted to join St Gemma’s Hospice as a voluntary team member, although I did feel very nervous to begin with as I had not worked in a hospice environment before. I was quite anxious as to how I would cope, communicate and help with patients and carers at such vulnerable times. Luckily my concerns were short lived as it is such a lovely atmosphere within St Gemma’s and everyone works so well as a supportive team.
I use both reiki therapy and massage at the Hospice, reiki being especially popular as it a gentle, extremely relaxing almost meditative and is beneficial in bringing calming and stress reducing effects to body and mind.
I find that when patients and carers are referred onto complementary therapy that it not only helps them with deep relaxation, but also builds a trust and great rapport between patient or carer and therapist – this gives the chance to get to know them well and leads to them feeling they can chat and open up more freely if they feel the need.
They may be living with or caring for someone with a terminal illness, but also appreciate being treated as ‘normally’ as possible being able to chat about everyday things, family and friends, likes and dislikes. I have found that once you get to know a patient or carer’s personality you just know the best way to help and uplift them as an individual – uplifting people is one of the most important parts of my job.
The small things make a big difference to someone’s wellbeing. Donate today to support the Hospice’s healing environment: www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
Everybody loved him who met him really. Once met never forgotten. As the landlord, Ged just made everyone feel welcome. Everybody felt like they’d known him for years even if they didn’t. Everybody’s got fond memories of him which is nice.
At the funeral there would have been over 500 people. And then we just had a bit of a party didn’t we? We had a big day, it was a lovely day.
He went into St Gemma’s to get his pain sorted out and then he came back home. He ended up back in hospital and he just didn’t want to be in there at the latter end.
St. Gemma’s were brilliant. We ended up all stopping there, pretty much all that last week we were there, weren’t we?
And he liked it there at St. Gemma’s, especially being in the gardens. When he was in the wheelchair we’d whizz him around to the gardens. They couldn’t believe how many visitors he had. They kept saying what “more?!” He was one of those.
Like Ged, St Gemma’s welcomes everyone. www.st-gemma.co.uk/for-patients
Sometime after my wife Marlene died I wrote a letter which I was going to send and I thought ‘no this sounds a bit twee’. I’ll give you the gist of it.
St. Gemma’s is a tree and everyone who works there is a strong branch of that tree providing shelter, compassion and treatments for the fortunate patients who have managed to come here.
Six months ago I couldn’t have done this. It took me a long long time even to get used to the idea of not seeing Marlene again. Then suddenly I started not to be well and I thought ‘this is mad, I must get things organised for the kids’ so that when I do go they have nothing to do.
The only thing I can remember is waking up here with a nurse sitting on both sides and Mei who looked after Marlene was the one on the right side. And she said ‘Ronnie!’ and held my hand. You can’t put a price on it can you?
You’ve got to show your emotion, if you want to sit down and have a cry fine. I cry often, even now. I sat at home with my son and started thinking about Marlene and I burst into tears. It’s normal, we were married 61 years.
When I came with Marlene originally, the minute you walk through reception the whole atmosphere is one of peace, quiet, welcome. It’s amazing and it still is.
I’m really hard to impress, but this impressed me. I’m the luckiest man in the world to be here.
The donations you give mean that Ronnie and Marlene both got the care they needed. www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
Ronnie has since sadly died, but he was able to be in the place he wanted to be, St Gemma’s Hospice, because of your support.
We were reborn when we met. We were new people. I never thought for one minute that someone would fancy me at 40 years old, and the love was so intense. I would have lived with her in a cardboard box on the moon. We were going to go forever and ever. But life doesn’t always work out like you want it to, does it?
It was a bombshell when Sue was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When someone suggested St Gemma’s it was like someone shouldering the burden. Everything was absolute total care and love with it, from strangers.
Once Sue was settled in nothing was too much trouble, you could ask for anything. It took away the worry. You don’t expect to have that kind of commitment and it’s a love they give you. I love the place, despite what it stands for, because I dread to think what it would have been like without St Gemma’s care and attention.
She asked me if she could die in my arms, and she did. It was horrendous, really tough, but I had to make sure she got all her wishes.
I will forever be attached to St Gemma’s, there’s no way you can’t when they have looked after someone special to you. And that’s why whenever I can, anyway that I can generate cash we’ll get it down to St Gemma’s. If I won the lottery tomorrow I would give it all to carry on doing the work they do.
The care Sue and Stuart received is only possible because of your support. Help more families by donating at www.st-gemma.co.uk/40faces-donation
There comes a time when people really need this service and I think this service is very important in person-centred care.
When my husband was seriously ill, I don’t have any family in Leeds and my two children are far away, so when I was told he had only limited days I needed somebody to talk to. I did ask for chaplaincy support and I didn’t get any. So that really brought me into that area.
It is something my husband has led me to, and though he’s not here, when I’m doing this work I feel he’s walking alongside with me.
Since I’ve come here there’s been people who feel very restful talking to me because I can speak their language; I speak three Asian languages, which means I can cover the community all around Leeds. And I don’t have any particular focus on any minority faith or any religion, so people find it quite easy to talk to me.
Everyone is a human being, it doesn’t matter what colour, what creed, what religion, what background; the feelings are exactly the same. We share a lot together.
I think the main work of spiritual care volunteers is to be with people and to help them, whatever they are asking of us. We don’t intrude; we just enter their space with their own invitation. Then we start walking with them and being in their pain, their emotional difficulties. Sometimes they have got things that they have never told anyone, and we are there to listen to them.
St Gemma’s Hospice is proud to care for people of all faiths and cultures. Find out more about spiritual care by visiting www.st-gemma.co.uk/spiritual-care
She’s lovely is Nicky, she really is nice and hands on aren’t you darling?
We sit and have a good discussion don’t we?
We do yeah. When I’ve felt really horrible some days… when I’ve just been really down, you know, she’s always there for me. She rings up on a regular thing, don’t you? You’re always there to check how I am. She’s an amazing lady, she really is, she’s a dedicated nurse.
You are the best; you’ve always been there for me and Steven.
You’ve always been so positive through everything.
Because you’ve helped me as well, you know, you’ve showed me the way – the light at the end of the tunnel.
There’s days when I just feel shocking, and I mean really down and shocking, and then I think to myself ‘well look, I’m here, I’ve got Steven – and he’s a lovely husband, he really is the best. And the children are good and the grandkids they just keep me going. Then I’ve got the lovely Nicky! What more could one want? And St Gemma’s are there, I know I can phone them and they’re there for me.
We talk about how you’re feeling and anything that is troubling you. We look at any symptoms that are troubling you and what we can do to help those so that you can get on with enjoying life. Steven is included as much as he wants and we make sure he is coping OK.
Yes everything, they take everything into consideration does St Gemma’s. Yeah it’s nice, thank you so much for being there for me, thank you.
You’re so dedicated to your job, that’s what we need.
Discover more about the care we provide to patients in their own homes: www.st-gemma.co.uk/community-team
All images ©Olivia Hemingway