Karen’s mum, Carole was cared for at St Gemma’s in her final days.
Karen shares her story:
“St Gemma’s is a truly amazing place. I cannot say enough about how fantastic you all are, from the receptionists to the canteen staff to the nurses, the bereavement counsellors; every single person I encountered was compassionate, caring and so so thoughtful and empathetic of our situation. We were made to feel like nothing was too much trouble, like our needs were important and like my Mum’s last days/hours were important.
“It was scary, Mum has never been poorly ever in her life and never been in hospital. In April 2017, she was on holiday in Vegas. She came home fine. In May, she got a ‘tummy ache’ and within 4 weeks in June she had died. We were totally, totally devastated.
“She only had 2 nights in St Gemma’s as we managed to get a bed when the hospital gave her a week to live (my sister and I were sleeping on a camp bed on the floor in her room in the LGI). The care at St Gemma’s was noticeable the minute we got through the door. Mum had a secondary cancer in her liver; they never found the primary cancer as it was all so quick but, with hindsight, she wouldn’t have coped with being poorly.
“Everyone said ‘a lovely lady’ in all the sympathy cards and that summed it up really, she was so dignified (she never let us, her daughters, see her without her false teeth!).
“Back to St Gemma’s; the nursing staff are so intuitive and caring, and subtle, so subtle. They prepared my sister and me, without us knowing it really, and we were given our own room when the time came. And we knew the signs. And on a sunny morning when we lost my Mum we opened up the doors of that room onto the beautiful gardens. It was devastating to lose her but I cannot begin to imagine how it would have felt in a hospital, clinical scenario.
“So, I do all I can to support St Gemma’s – I subscribe to the Hospice lottery, I go the craft fairs. As hard as that is to actually physically go (the last time I got so emotional I gave £20 for a watering can that I think was under a tenner and then ran out crying!), it’s worth it to know that people in the future can go with care and dignity, and that their families are supported.
“We were made to feel like nothing was too much trouble, like our needs were important and like my Mum’s last days/hours were important.”
“My Forever Flower symbolises a number of things for me: the gardens of St Gemma’s where we let my Mum’s soul sail at the moment of her death, and those same gardens which are so important for people to find calm in moments of utter despair. But also my Mum loved flowers, especially her own roses, and this is where my Forever Flower is, in with the rose bush that my son bought her as a gift. I am not green fingered at all but am very proud that I’ve managed to keep this rose flowering for 2 years after Mum’s gone (okay I’ve had maintenance hints from my sister and auntie!). It’s on my patio at the back of my house, the house Mum and I chose together in 2015 when I got divorced and changed my life with my 3 sons – all of which would have been impossible without her encouragement and emotional support.
“And I run, I run marathons, but I needed to do something different to get sponsors – hence the wine marathon! The Marathon du Médoc was actually on my 50th birthday. Mum followed me on her iPad doing London marathon in 2017 and I’m sure she was following me on this one somewhere.”