Kevin Hawley, affectionately known as Huggy, started to attend Blythe House in 2018 after being diagnosed with carcinoid syndrome. Huggy’s loveable nickname came about in 1976, when he was a firefighter in Derby; with colleagues taking inspiration from the hit TV show, Starsky and Hutch.

Huggy, who worked as a firefighter for 35 years across Derbyshire including in New Mills, Glossop and Buxton, had retired from the service and was working as a caretaker at Alderbrook Day Care Centre in Chinley when he started to feel unwell.

The passionate fundraiser, who many local people might know from running Black Diamond Discos, now takes daily medication including injecting himself three times per day.

Huggy explained: ‘I am member of the patient participation group for a doctor’s surgery in New Mills, and Emma [Richards, Information and Support Facilitator at Blythe House] came to give us a presentation about the hospice’s care and services in the local area. I thought to myself that I might be able to access some support from Blythe House, and I got in touch.

‘I started to come along to the Living Well day service, where I have been able to access complimentary and art therapies, mindfulness courses and regular clinics with Dr Sarah Parnacott [Consultant in Palliative Medicine].

‘I have found the mindfulness course at Blythe House really, really good. You do get pretty low when you’re feeling unwell all the time. Some people say it is rubbish but dealing with the stresses of illness is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. If you are going for a scan or you’re worried about other aspects, you can pull techniques out of your toolbox to help you, that you’ve learnt here at Blythe House.

‘Having reiki, an alternative therapy, has been life-changing. Carol [Stanier, Complimentary Therapist], noticed during one of my treatments that I stopped breathing for a short time, so she ensured that I went to speak to Dr Parnacott. After a meeting with some questions, Dr Parnacott referred me to Chesterfield Royal Hospital where I was then diagnosed with cystic fibrosis of the pancreas. Thanks to the quick thinking of Blythe House staff, I am now able to manage the disease with specialist breathing machinery.

‘I once enjoyed a hand massage given by another complimentary therapist at Blythe House. After the day session had finished, I was driving to Rhyl for a fundraising event with the Masonic Charitable Trust. I felt so relaxed after a small but special treat; it was so nice to have a little bit of “me time.”

‘I’ve also really liked getting involved in the art therapy, working with pastels and watercolours; the service, including volunteers and patients, really helps to open up your mind.

‘The catering staff and volunteers are so courteous to your needs here too. I found my diet changed dramatically as a result of my illness but they catered to my requirements and the food was always delicious.’

After a stint with the Living Well service, Huggy was feeling better and was discharged to start attending our Moving On group, hosted monthly for patients who have been discharged from the service to attend for up to six months, addressing any worries or concerns that they may have.

But it wasn’t goodbye for Huggy! The musician and all-round entertainer came back the hospice regularly to play music and sing to patients, which always went down a treat!

More recently, Huggy, who is a member of a local Mason’s group and has raised funds for charity for much of his life, has started to attend the Living Well service due to complications with his illnesses and feeling unwell again.

He is taking part in the writing therapy group and continues to support the fundraising team with events including putting a good word in with Santa to make sure he attended the hospice’s Christmas fair back in November!

Find out more about our services and how they may be able to support you or a loved one.

‘Art therapy keeps you going and makes you feel better’

Lynne (right) holds up her wall hanging with help from Catherine and volunteer, Jane

Lynne Bould from Fairfield started to attend Blythe House’s Living Well service in February 2019, after her breast cancer diagnosis. She has found solace in the service’s writing group, and more recently the art therapy, creating intricate wall hangings which she hopes to display at home.

Lynne explained: ‘Last year, I went for a usual mammogram and was called back to the hospital to discuss my results. I was going on holiday to Amsterdam at the time, so I said “I’m still going away!” and I didn’t worry about the results whilst I was there. When I came home, I went for the appointment and I just kind of knew something was wrong. As a nurse and healthcare assistant in the local community, I am clued up on this kind of thing, so I knew they were going to tell me bad news, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2018.

‘When I first started to come along to Blythe House, I attended the writing group with Julian; it was brilliant and gave me a way to express myself and the way I felt. After the 12-week course, I was interested to start something new and I just came along to the art area at the hospice. I had always liked art at school but life just got in the way, as it does; having two daughters, two grandchildren and looking after my mum and dad, as well as working as a carer; I never had time to enjoy artwork.

‘I started off painting and doing a bit of sewing, and then Catherine [Serjeant, Art Co-ordinator] said that we were going to do some silk painting with a printing plate, and I started work on my wall hanging. I love the tropical look so I created a bit of a jungle theme using buttons, jewels and other bits. I love having a good root through all the items; I am like a magpie and love bright colours!

‘I’ve now done three wall hangings since I started coming to Blythe House and I’m just starting on a fourth. I also work on them at home; if my husband is watching something boring on television, I’ll head off to sit at the dining table and work on my wall hanging. The art therapy keeps you going and makes you feel better.’

Find out more about our Living Well service at Blythe House.

It was Louise Eyre’s friend who called Blythe House to make an appointment on her behalf, after she was diagnosed with fibrotic cryptogenic organising pneumonia, an extremely rare form of lung disease.

Louise led a very active lifestyle prior to her diagnosis in January 2012, including ‘walking for miles’ on Duke of Edinburgh trips with students from Chapel-en-le-Frith High School where she was a teaching assistant.

The disease causes inflammation and scarring of the lungs, obstructing the airways making it very difficult to breath. Louise said: ‘Symptoms of my illness came all of a sudden; I just could not breath and was admitted to Stepping Hill Hospital where I stayed for three months before having a biopsy which confirmed my diagnosis. The results of my illness are life changing; I used to be very active but I can hardly do anything anymore.

‘A friend of mine suggested that I should get in touch with Blythe House; up until then I thought Blythe House was only for people with cancer! I came along to meet the nurses, and started to attend the Living Well service in August 2018.

‘I have been overwhelmed by the support from all the staff; I do not know where I would be now without them. I have been able to get involved in art therapy, Tai Chi and have reiki [a complimentary therapy]. All of these things have helped me to stop thinking about my illness all of the time. The activities and treatments give me a reason to want to come to Blythe House every Wednesday to meet people in the same position as myself.

‘I have gained more confidence in dealing with my illness and I have accepted that I am not going to get better. I have been helped in so many ways by staff and other patients, and have been given valued advice about how to manage my life as it is. I did have very bad anxiety before I came to Blythe House but thanks to tools I’ve learnt here, I am able to manage it better.

‘Dr Parnacott [Consultant in Palliative Medicine], who I see at Blythe House in her out-patient clinics, has provided so much help and symptom management support to me. I truly believe if it was not for the help at Blythe House, I would not be here today.’

As well as accessing services at the hospice, Louise has done her fair share of fundraising to help keep them free for local patients like her to access. She took part in the first ever Glow Twilight Walk in July; organised a raffle of Easter hampers alongside dear friend and fellow Blythe House patient, Ann Hampson; and is set to organise another raffle for Christmas very soon.

Louise’s family also took part in the Jingle Bell Jog in December 2018, and her granddaughters are set to raise funds once again at the event on Sunday 1st December this year.

As a result of visiting Dr Parnacott’s clinic, Louise was asked to take part in filming for the hospice’s 30th anniversary commemorative video earlier this year too.

Louise ended: ‘If you’re living with a life-limiting illness in the High Peak, please speak to your doctor about coming to Blythe House, or just get in touch yourself. It has been one of the best things I ever did coming here.’

‘Life would have been very different without Blythe House; it would have been very tough.’

Keith was on the trip of a lifetime with his wife of 44 years Margaret, when she started to feel unwell. The couple from Glossop were travelling over a five-week period in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, before meeting up with their South African friends in Pretoria.

They realised something was not quite right after they arrived in South Africa, when Margaret’s food fell off the side of her plate and she did not notice; she had lost her vision on the left side. There was further worry the next morning when Margaret, usually an early riser, did not want to get out of bed. They took her to a hospital in Durban, where Margaret underwent tests and scans, before their worst fears were confirmed when the doctor advised that Margaret had a lesion on her brain. Following a transfer that night to another hospital with a specialist neurological unit, and surgery a few days later, it was confirmed that Margaret had a very aggressive, terminal brain tumour.

Keith said: ‘We had some really difficult discussions with our travel insurers, who were less than helpful [Keith made a formal complaint to the Financial Ombudsman on his return home]. Thankfully we managed to fly home after a two-week stay in hospital and were transferred straight to Salford Royal Hospital where Margaret underwent a further five hours of brain surgery. Her condition improved and we had an appointment with an oncologist at The Christie Hospital three days after the surgery to discuss treatment options, but over the three days Margaret’s condition deteriorated and she was too ill to start any further treatment. We were advised that the only option was palliative care at home.

‘The surgeon from Salford Royal Hospital, Mr D’Urso, got in touch the following day and offered to undertake further surgery but advised that it was high risk. He asked us all to think about it – the operation could leave Margaret in a worse condition, but it might also prolong her life. It took Margaret about twenty seconds to decide that she wanted to have the operation, a decision that both my daughter and I agreed with. She spent seven hours in surgery on the 23rd December 2017, and we had our Christmas lunch in the high-dependency unit at Salford Royal that year.

‘After the successful operation, Margaret started to undergo chemo and radiotherapy at the Christie Hospital, and was then transferred from Salford to Tameside Hospital before going home at the end of January 2018. We travelled from home to The Christie every day for three weeks for radio/chemotherapy. This was followed by three months of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the treatment was very injurious to Margaret’s health and she required blood and platelet transfusions after each round of chemotherapy.

‘It was in March 2018 that our social worker, Steve Gray at the hospital recommended Blythe House, and so Margaret and I came for a meeting with Karen [Clayton, Senior Nurse] to discuss how the hospice could support her. Margaret started to attend the Living Well day-care service every Thursday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Some mornings, she could not summon the energy to get dressed, but she always wanted to get up and dressed on Thursday mornings.

‘I am a keen cyclist, so on Thursdays, once I had dropped Margaret off at Blythe House and she was settled, my good friend Chris and I would head out on our bikes for the day. Cycling for me during Margaret’s illness was a great therapy and it was a massive relief to know that she was being so well looked after at the hospice; I had no worries or concerns for the whole day because I knew I had left her in such capable and competent hands. She would love the live music that volunteers came to perform weekly. She would also bring in photobooks of our travels around the world and with the help of Lorna [Barratt, Living Well Service Support Worker]; she would show fellow patients, staff and volunteers. She loved having her nails painted; it really was the little things that made her feel so special.

‘It was around the same time that we also started receiving support from Blythe House’s Hospice at Home team. Healthcare assistants would come to our house two days a week to provide personal care to Margaret and some respite breaks for me. I would be able to head out to Glossop to do some shopping or general daily tasks and even a short bike ride, safe in the knowledge that Margaret was being so well looked after at home. The team also stepped in to support us when I attended a wedding reception in Sheffield, so that they could get Margaret ready for bed and ensure she was safe. We became friends with all the healthcare assistants and had a very relaxed relationship with them; we both felt so comfortable having them in our home.

‘In October 2018, it was decided that Margaret should not undergo any further treatment, as it was just too injurious to her health. Margaret continued to attend Blythe House on Thursdays and we continued to receive support from the Hospice at Home team.

‘On the 28th January 2019, Helen, one of the Hospice at Home healthcare assistants suggested that I might want to sleep downstairs next to Margaret’s hospital bed, as she had started to show signs of Cheyne–Stokes breathing. My brother, Peter came round and we sat and chatted to Margaret. She died peacefully that evening.

‘These very valuable last 12 months Margaret spent at home would not have been possible without Mr D’Urso, the surgeon at Salford Royal, to whom I will be forever grateful.

‘Life would have been very different during Margaret’s illness had we not had the care and services from Blythe House; it would have been incredibly tough. I am so thankful that we were able to access support for 10 months and that Margaret got to enjoy attending the Living Well day-care at the hospice, and that she was so well looked after at home by the Hospice at Home healthcare assistants. I will never forget the care and compassion of everyone from Blythe House; what a wonderful team of people.

‘The first Christmas without her is going to be tough for the whole family, but I am so proud to support the Light up a Life campaign and to dedicate a light in memory of my very dear wife.’

Download a Light up a Life donation form:

Find out more about the Light up a Life service at Blythe House on Sunday 8th December.

Scott Beswick is hoping to raise £2,000 for Blythe House Hospicecare as he puts his best foot forward and is preparing to take on next year’s London Marathon.

The Buxton resident is a big Blythe House supporter after his mother-in-law, Julie started to access services last year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Scott and his family drafted their Will with Cooper Sons Hartley and Williams solicitors in Buxton during the fundraising Wills Month in June; took part in the hospice’s first ever Glow Twilight Walk in July, and regularly attend monthly coffee mornings to show their support.

When he’s not busy in his role as Employment Officer at Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, Scott spends time with wife, Ali and baby son, Callum. He is also a volunteer football coach for young children in Whaley Bridge.

Scott said: ‘In early 2018, at the same time that my wife Ali and I found out we were going to have our first baby, Julie was told the devastating news that she had cancer. Since then, Julie has undergone intense surgery, brutal chemotherapy, radiotherapy and biological therapy and will continue her treatment until summer 2021; fortunately, her prognosis is positive.

‘Amidst the constant stream of appointments and intense treatment here, there and everywhere, Blythe House has supported Julie and our family from her very first meeting; providing her with weekly Living Well day-care services including activities, complimentary therapies, and opportunities to meet others who share similar experiences, as well as practical help and advice. Blythe House and the staff there have helped Julie be herself, as well as a mum to Ali and a nanna to Callum, throughout her battle.

‘To thank Blythe House for everything they have done and continue to do for Julie, our family and other families similar to ours, I want to put myself out there and complete the biggest challenge of my life whilst raising vital funds for the charity. I have secured my place in the 2020 London Marathon and will be running the 26.2 miles for Blythe House Hospicecare on Sunday 26th April 2020.

‘I used to regularly play football when I was younger, and took part in running at school, including for the County. I find that running helps to clear my head; if I have worries, running helps me to stop overthinking; once I’m out there I can just enjoy myself and feel better for it.

‘Anything you are able to donate will be hugely appreciated and will go such a long way towards helping strong warriors like my mother-in-law and families like ours, and will make my training regime that little bit more bearable!’

To donate to Scott’s challenge, visit his Just Giving page.

Katie, Jenny and Lucy

Katie and her family have supported Blythe House for many years, after her mum, Lynn came to the hospice for support following her breast cancer diagnosis.

When Katie got married in June 2017, she chose to donate money in lieu of gifts to Blythe House, in memory of Lynn who died in November seven years earlier.

Katie said: ‘I’m originally from Stockport, however my mum was from Chinley and as we still have family members in the High Peak area, it’s somewhere that me and my family visit regularly.

‘My mum came to Blythe House and gained an awful lot from being part of the Blythe community. I have visited Blythe House on a number of occasions, both with my mum and since my mum died, and it totally changed my perception of what a hospice was all about. It is very modern, very warm and very supportive and the work you do is amazing and makes a difference to so many people. It’s nice to be able to support such a worthwhile cause.

Katie, Lucy and Jenny

‘Blythe House is something close to my heart and it was nice to be able to include this in our wedding celebrations. All our wedding guests were aware of the connection with Blythe House and were very supportive and generous with the donations made.’

Katie’s sister, Lucy is celebrating her 30th birthday this year, as Blythe House Hospicecare also commemorates its 30th anniversary! Lucy has asked for donations to the charity as part of her birthday celebrations.

Katie explained: ‘Lucy had a 30th party recently, and we are planning to have a family weekend away in September. Our other sister, Jenny, is shortly due to give birth, so there will be a new baby joining us on the weekend away also!’

You can donate to Lucy’s fundraising by visiting her Facebook page!

Sue began coming along to Blythe House’s Living Well Service in September 2017, after her metastasized papillary thyroid cancer diagnosis several years earlier. She explains: “My initial diagnosis was in 2008, then I had a recurrence in 2014 and again in May 2017.

‘When I first heard about Blythe House through my GP, my initial response was “no way, I don’t want to go to a hospice!” I had this image of a bunch of old people sitting around moaning about their illnesses. Well, I was eventually persuaded to go and I met up with Claire [Rimmer, Senior Nurse] who was to be my key worker.

‘The moment I walked in on my zimmer frame, I felt a kind of warmth that I couldn’t explain. It was as if someone was giving me a big hug. I immediately felt relaxed and at ease. I learned about the wellbeing group, the art group and the holistic therapies available; there was also 1:1 counselling. Claire was absolutely lovely and by the time she had finished I was looking forward to becoming a regular fixture.

‘The mindfulness and self-healing courses provide those with long-term and terminal illnesses with invaluable information about how to keep yourself well and keep a positive outlook even when times are tough. Most importantly it reminds you that you are not alone in your journey and there are others – from nurses, volunteers and other service users – to help you deal with anything that comes up. I found having someone to talk to immensely comforting.

‘Far from being a “bunch of old moaners,” I found people similar to me; normal people just dealing with every day as it comes and having as good a time as possible doing it. There is as much laughter as there are tears at Blythe. The art group is a great example of how we can all have a good chat and a laugh even when we feel low. I never knew I had any art skills in me until Catherine [Serjeant, Creative Arts Coordinator], encouraged me to have a go, and once I started there was no stopping me. I am even taking part in making the wall hanging to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Blythe House.

‘I have made some very good friends during my time here, in particular in the writing group I attended. It ran for 12 weeks but we still meet up even now because we gained much pleasure and re-assurance out of hearing each other’s work and writing our own too. It really consolidated everything that Blythe House had tried to instil in us about dealing with illness and the stresses of it. It turned out to be a very therapeutic process.

‘I personally can’t thank Blyth House enough for what it has given me as a service user. It is a warm and welcoming place that can tailor its services to whatever you might need at the time. From mental health and medical advice to a cup of tea, there’s something for everyone – patients with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses and their families and carers – if they need it.’

Barry started to attend Blythe House in early 2019, after an advanced prostate cancer diagnosis that came ‘right out of the blue.’ The former project manager who trained as an architect found huge solace in the hospice’s art therapy, exploring his emotions to create a personal and impactful portfolio of work.

Following the last session of his programme at Blythe House, Barry, who’s from Whaley Bridge, explained: ‘I was attending The Christie Hospital for treatment and someone suggested getting some emotional support from Blythe House which is closer to home. I was in a bad place; when something like this happens, it’s a huge shock, and it came right out of the blue. There were big decisions to be made about the future and they were quite difficult to handle. It was a fundamental change in my life.

‘I first met Emma [Richards, Information and Support Facilitator], who referred me to the Living Well service where I met my key worker, Claire [Rimmer, Senior Nurse]. I’m not an emotional man usually but due to treatments, there was a big cloud hanging over me. What’s happened at Blythe House has been breath-taking; words are very easy to say but the nurses just recognised how I felt, angry and scared, and they responded to that. I have found it very liberating to come here; I can just be me.

‘I trained as an architect many years ago, but the artistic side of the job had drifted away from me and I was involved in the technical and admin side of the role, exchanging info between builders and contractors. I’ve always taken life quite seriously but lot of things took me back as a result of my diagnosis; I had a lot of questions – who are you? Who do you want to be?

‘The medication does have an effect on you and your emotions; you’re dealing with massive changes in life. The art that I’ve produced has stemmed away from work that I produced as part of my career, and become more creative and in-depth. I don’t have to hit any deadlines here, or have to liaise with any consultants. Catherine [Serjeant, Creative Art Coordinator] said to me: “Barry, you’ve been with too many high powered for too long!” I have created a portfolio of work, developed my skills base and explored all my emotions – it’s very powerful stuff. My time at Blythe House has been life-changing, quite literally.

‘Tuesdays are always going to be a special day for me; I am going to continue with my artwork, I’ve got that discipline in my life now. Blythe House is such a comfort; I know that when push comes to shove, they’ll always be here to help me.’

Blythe House has enabled me to focus on “living the new normal” and get on with my life and appreciate more; the Living Well name is so accurate because that’s exactly what it encourages you to do. It has given me hope for the future; it encourages you to live in the immediate moment, but see beyond into the future, by carrying on living instead of constantly worrying.

Mark got in touch with Blythe House within a week of being diagnosed with advanced, aggressive prostate cancer in April 2018. Since then, the 61-year-old grandfather of 12 has accessed different care and services including counselling, complimentary therapies and the prostate cancer support group, alongside his wonderful, supportive wife, Mary.

Disley resident Mark was an ultra-fell runner and would regularly take part in 25 to 30 mile runs and 40mile races during his weekends. The Manchester City Council construction manager explained: ‘I used to be very overweight so decided enough was enough and that I needed to lose some weight. I got involved in ultra-running and so I knew very well how my body worked; when I could carry on and when a little niggle was just that, or when enough was enough. One weekend, while on a 35mile run, I got a pain in my right hip; it did not seem to be budging so I went to a drop-in clinic near my work in Manchester.

‘The nurse advised that it was perhaps just a strain I’d picked up during the race. She gave me some medication but after week, the pain was still there. I went to see my GP, who advised that hip pain is a symptom of advanced prostate cancer, and she referred me for tests at Stepping Hill Hospital. I underwent different examinations including a digital rectal examination, as well as whole body and bone scans.

‘I then went on holiday to visit my son and grandchildren in Germany, and when I got back, it was time to find out my results (on my 60th birthday!) I said to Mary, “I feel like someone has got my whole life in their hands, and they’re going to make decisions on what’s going to happen to me.” When the test results came back, I asked if could look at the scans to check that it was actually my name on them, as they may have got them mixed up with someone else. I wanted to check that it was me, who had advanced prostate cancer that had spread to my bones and lymph nodes. My life was turned upside down.

‘I started androgen deprivation hormone therapy treatment that very day; it made me realise that it must be bad, if they’re starting treatment the very same day! I also underwent chemotherapy and endured the horrendous side effects including losing my hair, eyelashes and putting on weight.

‘Mary and I were pretty desperate and needed some support. Ironically, we used to live off Long Lane in Chapel-en-le-Frith and often wondered what went on at Blythe House but we never needed to use the services. I started to come to the Living Well day-care service in January 2019 and enjoyed 12 weeks of amazing care and support. I didn’t have to put on a face when I walked in Blythe House; if people asked how you were, it’s because they genuinely wanted to know, and they listened properly to your worries and concerns. Work colleagues and family are so supportive and well meaning, but unless you’ve had cancer or you’ve got it, you just don’t know how someone going through it can be feeling.

‘My key worker, Claire [Rimmer, senior nurse] and I had a really good bond; I felt heard and understood. It was exactly what I needed. If I ever needed someone other than my family, I wouldn’t go to Stepping Hill, I’d come to Claire; whenever you speak to her, you feel like you’re the only person she’s looking after. As part of the Living Well experience, I have had acupuncture sessions, as well as reiki and HEARTS with Carol [Stainer, complimentary therapist]; I was totally open minded about the therapies, but wow, they were out of this world and made an astounding difference to my mental and physical wellbeing, it was so relaxing. I have also found counselling sessions with Jacqui [Chadwick, counsellor] incredibly beneficial to talk about the mental health aspects of my illness.

‘As well as Living Well care and services, Mary and I have had amazing support from the prostate cancer support group. There is a mutual, unspoken understanding in the group; we all have the same problem and we’re all in different places but it’s important that there’s other people in my, and Mary’s, positions, who can provide advice and friendship.

‘Blythe House has ensured that Mary and I are not isolated in our situation; we’re not the first people to encounter anything like this. There is a tendency to think that no one knows what you’ve got, but Blythe House is so specialist in what it does. Being the person that I am, I never thought that I wouldn’t be able to run more than ten miles, it used to take me around five miles just to warm up! I haven’t hung up my trainers just yet, and I’ve starting cycling on part of my commute to work which feels unbelievably good!

‘Blythe House has enabled me to focus on “living the new normal” and get on with my life and appreciate more; the Living Well name is so accurate because that’s exactly what it encourages you to do. It has given me hope for the future; it encourages you to live in the immediate moment, but see beyond into the future, by carrying on living instead of constantly worrying.’

I spent 11 years fighting the Blythe House cause, helping to raise much-needed funds to continue to provide free care and services to those who really need them. I never thought that one day; I’d be on the other side of the fence, ringing the hospice to say “please help me.”

Vickie Wilson worked at Blythe House for over a decade, and remains a dedicated fundraising and events volunteer, as well as providing the most delicious cheesecakes to raise vital funds at our monthly coffee mornings.

Her Mum, Lynne, and Dad, Bill, were involved in the initial meeting to discuss fundraising for a High Peak hospice, back when Blythe House was founded in 1989. The family has continued to support Blythe House throughout its 30 years of service, by sponsoring newsletters, events and other fundraising initiatives.

Vickie never realised that one day, it might be her making the urgent phone call for help when Bill was diagnosed with heart failure, and Blythe House was able to provide specialist care when he needed it the most…

Vickie explained: ‘I started working at Blythe House in 2007 as a general secretary; helping with admin, care services and counselling. After a year I moved into the fundraising office, taking care of the banking, thank you notes to kind-hearted donors, community work, and events. My Dad was a prominent local businessman and would regularly donate money or gifts in kind to Blythe House including sponsorship of a carer’s day, and our monthly newsletters.

‘In 2015, Dad had a bad year; he collapsed and suffered a heart attack. He was in and out of hospital and had to have a TAVI (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation) installed. The following year, Dad started to attend the Living Well service at Blythe House and enjoyed coming to weekly sessions where he met Foday Kamara, a spiritual care volunteer and Minister at Chinley Independent Chapel. The friendship he struck up with Foday turned out to be very special and profound.

‘Dad finished with the Living Well service but unfortunately in December 2018, I didn’t feel that he was getting the care and support that he deserved from outside sources, and so I made an appointment with Blythe House to see how the services might have been able to help him further. The team put a plan in place and Dad was visited at home by nursing staff, and Dr Sarah Parnacott, who runs a weekly palliative medicine clinic at Blythe House.

‘A few weeks later during one of her visits, Dr Parnacott told us that Dad’s health was deteriorating rapidly and some professional overnight care was quickly arranged with Blythe House’s Hospice at Home team. That night, Sheila [Darcey, Hospice at Home Healthcare Assistant] came at 10pm, and Foday also visited Dad to do Communion and have some quiet time. Dad died very peacefully at 10.50pm surrounded by his family.

‘Sheila asked my Mum and the family: “Would you like me to stay with you?” The answer was a resounding “yes.” We had a group hug and drank lots of tea and coffee. Sheila checked on Dad every half an hour or so; she was there with the doctor when the death was certified, and she oversaw everything with the funeral directors. Sheila has kept in contact since too, and came to Dad’s funeral.

‘I know that many people will have a story to tell about the amazing Hospice at Home service at Blythe House, and that most of those people will have their very own “Sheila” in their lives. She really was one in a million; she took the pain and anguish of losing Dad away, and was there to support us during the most difficult time; we couldn’t have coped without her.

‘I spent 11 years fighting the Blythe House cause, helping to raise much-needed funds to continue to provide free care and services to those who really need them. I never thought that one day; I’d be on the other side of the fence, ringing the hospice to say “please help me.”

‘I’d urge everyone in the local area to put their hand in their pockets and support Blythe House in whatever way they can. It may not be through cash donations but gifts in kind towards services or events, or volunteering your time to support its wonderful care; you really never know when you might need its services. For Dad, who had supported Blythe House throughout its history, it was there for him when he truly needed it and we will be forever grateful.’