Alan served in the army for many years, and returned to Leeds when his wife became ill so he could care for her. After his wife died, Alan struggled to cope and found it hard to live in the home they had shared.
One day, he locked up the house, left the keys for his family, and headed off for some space and solitude. He bought a tent and set up a base in some local woods. He enjoyed the nature and the changing seasons and this became his home for almost 30 years. He occasionally ventured into Leeds, helping the market-stallholders loading and unloading their vans, in return for some food and supplies.
Alan’s health deteriorated a few years ago and he reluctantly sought medical advice. He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It was around this time that Alan was introduced to Nicky, a senior nurse from St Gemma’s Hospice, who had been working with homeless people to ensure they could access the care they needed.
Nicky and Alan struck up a good relationship. By now, Alan had complications arising from his illness, and Nicky persuaded him to let her help. She helped to find him some council accommodation and she visits him regularly to ensure he has the care he needs as he enters the end of his life. This would have been nearly impossible had he remained living in his tent.
As Alan says:
“She’s my guardian angel – she has sorted out my pain, she brings me my medication and she generally just cares for me. She sometimes tells me off if I haven’t been looking after myself properly, but she does it in such as nice way! I couldn’t manage without her and I’m very lucky indeed.”
To read more about the care St Gemma’s has provided to local families and to share your story, please visit www.st-gemma.co.uk/hospicestories