Patient & Family Stories

Jacqui’s Story

Losing someone you love is undoubtedly the hardest thing any of us will go through.  But to lose someone during, or because of, the current COVID-19 pandemic is even more heart-breaking.

Chris Tiley and his daughters Meselle and Aimee share their moving story of how Covid-19 impacted their final weeks with their wife and mother Jacqui, who sadly passed away on 25th April, aged just 57.

Jacqui had been battling cancer for fourteen months but the COVID-19 pandemic meant she spent her final days in hospital without her family by her side and with no-one to hold her hand when she passed away.

Jacqui was referred to Hospice in July 2018, following her diagnosis of cervical cancer, which had spread to her lymph glands and lungs.

‘All of the team at the Hospice were amazing, I can’t put into words how brilliant Michelle was, she advised mam what she could claim when she wasn’t able to work anymore and helped sort out the paperwork. And since mam has died she has helped me loads, changing everything over that was in mam’s name.

Jayne the nurse was also lovely and helped mam understand what things meant when she would have test results or appointments with the doctor, she would call in to see mam just to check in on her, as mam wasn’t one to ring and ask for help’ Meselle recalls.

Jayne continued to support Jacqui and the family during lockdown, via phone calls and also visiting wearing full PPE.

Meselle said: ‘Mam was so ill for the last month that we couldn’t hug her or kiss her as she was so at risk of catching the virus and we were so afraid of giving it to her. I can’t put into words how difficult that was.’

On 16th April Jacqui’s condition deteriorated and so the family called Jayne, When Jayne arrived she suggested that Jacqui needed to go into hospital as she was having trouble breathing.

‘Mam had always said that when the time came she would go into hospital to die as our home was our happy place and she didn’t want us to have sad memories of her passing away here– that was mam always thinking of us. Although when she went in the ambulance that day we didn’t think she wouldn’t be coming home’, Messelle recalls.

‘I sat on the settee and cuddled her while we waited for the ambulance to come.  I didn’t think it would be the last time I held her in my arms’, Chris recalls.

Due to the pandemic none of the family were able to go with Jacqui, she had to go alone in the ambulance and the family had to wait at home for news on how she was.  They also weren’t allowed to visit her in hospital and so all contact was via the phone and FaceTime.

After being in hospital for a week with no physical visits from her family the hospital called to say that Jacqui had requested to see Chris. They would make arrangements for him to go in to see her, but he would have to wear full PPE.

It was during this visit that Chris was told by the doctors that Jacqui’s condition was deteriorating and it could be a matter of days that she had left. Chris had to shoulder this news on his own and then go home and tell his two daughters the earth shattering news.

The girls were totally devastated by the news but felt so helpless and they couldn’t be with their mum during her final days and also couldn’t help thinking of their mum being in hospital all alone.
Left totally distraught Meselle contacted the hospital who agreed that one other family member could go in to see Jacqui.

Meselle was the last person to see her mum alive in hospital and heartbreakingly, Aimee and Chris didn’t get to say their final goodbyes. Aimee recalls:  ‘All I wanted was a cwtch from my friends but they couldn’t come round to the house – it was so hard.  Losing a loved one is always hard but having to deal with it during the pandemic has been so much worse.  If, by sharing our story, we can help just one other family then we will have done mam proud. Knowing the hospice is there to support us really has helped.’

Layne’s Story

The passing of a loved one can have a devastating impact and for one man in particular he was able to cope thanks to the care and support that Hospice of the Valleys was able to offer him and proved to be a vital lifeline.

As an only child Layne’s mother, Pat, was his life and they were extremely close.  Pat lived next door to Layne and although she loved her own independence Layne visited at least three times a day.

One day while visiting his Mum Layne became concerned and following tests he received the devastating news that his Mother’s prognosis was terminal and no treatment was available.  Layne was asked if he wanted support from the Hospice and at that point he had never heard of the charity or what we did, but he was relieved to be offered some help.

Pat was initially cared for at Layne’s home where she went to live following her discharge from Hospital, being visited by the nurses, physiotherapist and complimentary therapist.  The Family Support Team also offered support as Layne was reaching breaking point and struggling to come to terms with his mother’s prognosis.

“The Family Support Officer was like a therapist and seemed to be able to answer all my questions and what he said made sense, he could feel and understand what I was going through. I felt close to the edge and in a really bad place but he encouraged me to attend Activate your Life sessions at the Hospice, this helped me to look at things in a different light, I was unable to change what was happening but learned to look at things in a different light and live for today.  This put me in a better place to accept what was going to happen. I knew I wasn’t on my own, he really helped me and I can’t praise him enough” says Layne.

Pat passed away in January 2019 and although devastated by his loss the support that Layne received from the Hospice has enabled him to cope.

“The Hospice gave me the help and support I needed when there was no one else that I could turn to.  I knew the Hospice were behind me 100% and for what they did I can’t thank them enough.  People should have an insight into how my life was turned upside down and they helped put me back together again.  They gave me the confidence to look after Mam giving us special time together.”

Helen’s Story

Helen’s husband Graham shares his story of how the hospice supported him and his children following the death of his wife Helen, aged 43. Helen died in mid-December, in the small hours of the night. The hospice social worker was there, pre-arranged the next day, which happened to be a Saturday. The social worker supported me in telling my children who were aged five and six and
we put up the Christmas tree up together. Doing something really helped. Although the children didn’t really understand that Mummy wasn’t coming home any more. I needed to talk. Whenever I needed to talk the hospice social worker was there on the phone, or would arrange to pop and see me. The hospice gave me certainty in a very uncertain time. We drank coffee. We laughed. Often I cried. Hard for a bloke of six foot two to cry. But the hospice guys let me. With their help, I gave myself permission to grieve and deal with life. They were at the funeral when the reality hit my eldest and the tears flowed. I had someone by my side to help me. My girls found a new friend who played games with them, did colouring with them, and helped them to understand. Visits became less regular as time progressed. Every time you stumble, you can shout, and they answer.

Phillip’s Story

Phillip was referred to the hospice to help with his symptoms, in particular his pain. Phillip accessed therapies, family support and nursing services who all worked together to help with the problems that he shared with us as he got to know the team better.

Phillip has now been discharged from the hospice, this is what he said about how the Family Support Team helped him.

“The practical, financial and emotional support has made a tremendous difference to me, at one of the most difficult times of my life. If a problem arose, the exceptional staff would step in and provide help, advice and support. It would seem like the team had taken the problem from me, but they had just supported me to get through it. I cannot thank or praise the team enough, for the difference they have made to my partner and myself, during a very difficult time for both of us