Written by: Fiona Nell
One is somehow always aware of there being a hospice nearby. Whether the full extent of their services becomes known, is I suppose, is dependent on the relationship entered into between hospice and the ‘patient’ & their family members.
Towards the end of 2019 my mother-in-law Lorna started losing weight at a rapid rate. Going into 2020 we knew that she had some internal bleeding and things were not quite right. In June a scope confirmed that she had an intestinal growth and that it was a 99.9% probability of it being cancerous. After consultations with Dr Mark Hosking, and taking into account the Covid situation, a ‘quality of life’ for her remaining days was decided upon rather than lonely days post-op in a medical facility.
2020: In June, my mother Edith developed a nasty leg blister and her leg oedema became quite bad. Early August she had a fall, which we discovered was more than likely due to a sudden drop in her blood pressure. Mid-September Dr Mark confirmed that Edith was in heart failure and that she should consider home-based hospice care. My Mom’s forthright answer to Mark was “I can’t do that as there are more deserving people in the community who need that assistance right now.” Mark firmly reminded her that she had given 17 years of (gardening) volunteering service to Helderberg Hospice and that it was time for her to swallow her admirable pride and be on the receiving end for a change!
It was decided that Helderberg Hospice nurses would visit both Lorna and Edith, at home, on a regular basis, to ensure that the remainder of their lives were kept as pain free & comfortable as possible. Our ‘angels’ were Angelique, Gill and Sherry. Each with their individual personalities but all possessing infinite knowledge and patience, gentleness, straight yet kind talk, copious compassion and empathy, and a much-needed sense of humour, especially when dealing with our family’s sometimes warped way of dealing with things!
The nursing staff at Helderberg Hospice were clearly pressurised given the Covid challenges, but there was always someone available telephonically and plans were made, with medicines always available on time. Lorna found peace on 27 October 2020.
Edith, being Edith, always said she was fine/doing well when she clearly wasn’t. Our angels were so good at coaxing the truth out of her and assuring her that she should not worry about the family carers as they were doing fine. When we weren’t doing so fine, all three ladies were aware and sensitive to what was going on – reassurance and encouragement were abundant. They also enquired about coping mechanisms of family members who were unable to physically be with Edith and whom they had never met.
Another source of hospice strength came from the Helderberg Hospice office staff and volunteers whom Edith was acquainted with, especially the family of gardeners. Messages of love and comfort went back and forth. What would we have done without Dr Mark? What patience he had with our two feisty old ducks! Edith spread her wings and took peaceful flight on 30 January 2021.
We find comfort in knowing that both Lorna and Edith led full and meaningful lives, which were kept as dignified as possible towards the end, thanks to Helderberg Hospice, who we realise were dealing with many, many more families who were experiencing much tougher & tragic times than we were, including losses amongst their own ranks.
I feel privileged to find my therapy in the Helderberg Hospice garden on Tuesday mornings, ‘working’ with like-minded people who are bringing some colour and joy to those seeing out their last days in such an amazing charitable place. Of course, catching up with the effervescent Karin Gordon, Volunteer Manager, and other volunteers who knew Edith, is in itself food for the soul.
If you or a family member require hospice services please visit this page to see how we can help you.