"The hospice was warm and cosy: the complete antithesis of the misery and gloom I’d expected"

Jayne Pickard’s father Bob was cared for at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice in 2009. This is their story in Jayne’s own words.

"It was a shock when my lovely dad Bob was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given weeks to live. He was sent home from Airedale Hospital and placed under the care of our GP, Hospice at Home, Sue Ryder and Home Care, including Marie Curie night sitters. Our days were filled with strangers who fast became the norm in our new routine.

"As a single parent, I had always been extremely close to my parents and, having lost my mum in 2001, you can imagine what a hard time this was for me, my two daughters and my newly arrived grandson Joseph (born just two weeks before Dad’s diagnosis).

"I spent every day at my dad’s little flat on Harewood Road and every night at home in Haworth; the weather was atrocious – snow for almost all of November and December, followed by sheet ice and ungritted roads.

"On day two of Dad’s homecoming, Pat from Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice came to see us and spoke to us as a family. My girls Lisa (then 28) and Laura (then 22) and my dad listened to her as she explained what the hospice could provide for his care, how they could help and support us too, and what dad wanted for the end of his life. Even though we knew it was coming, it was so hard to hear him say that he wanted to die at Manorlands – in his words: 'I don’t want a vigil around my bed; I want to go away from home'. So, the plan was set on place and we hoped that it would be a long time before it was needed."

A warm Manorlands welcome

"A fortnight later, Dad had a nasty water infection and I arrived one Sunday morning to find him hallucinating and delirious. That was a day I will never forget, but the out-of-hours GP was wonderful and he was soon on antibiotics, recovering slowly. Another hurdle overcome…

"He had been an active member of Steeton Male Voice Choir and the Airedale Male Voice Choir, and it wasn’t unusual to arrive at his flat to find him with visitors and laughter echoing around the walls. One of those visitors was Dr Mike Hughes who spotted that Dad’s medication wasn’t as it should be for him to enjoy what time he had left with us. So, between him and Pat, it was arranged for Dad to go into Manorlands Hospice to get this sorted out.

"That afternoon, an ambulance arrived to take him there. I followed it up and waited whilst the staff got Dad settled, all the while looking around me at the welcoming lounge and reception area. Having never visited a hospice before, it wasn’t what I expected it to be – not clinical, but warm and cosy."

Clear communication and family support

"Once in Dad’s room, one of the doctors arrived whilst we tucked into homemade cake and a welcomed cuppa. She was the first one to explain exactly where his cancer was, what would happen, and what they would try to do to alleviate his pain and symptoms. "

We were told that everyone was there to help us, too; if there was anything we needed to know, we should just ask. We could take advantage of the complementary treatments available, and make use of the family kitchen; I could even call in with my two Jack Russells if I wanted and my grandson Joseph was also very welcome. There were no set visiting hours, although mornings were always busy. It felt the complete antithesis of what I expected, which was misery and gloom everywhere.

"Dad spent two weeks in Manorlands. We became close to the staff and volunteers, developing a good rapport with them, and Joseph was adored by them all of course!

"Dad returned home looking more like his old self and with a spring in his step. It was such a relief that we could enjoy his last few weeks together, and of course my 50th birthday on the 20th December followed by Christmas – both of them goals the doctor had asked for on his admittance; both enjoyed together as a family thanks to Sue Ryder’s care."

"They truly are angels in human form"

"On 6th January 2010 – just 11 weeks after his diagnosis – my dad passed away at Manorlands, 10 minutes after arriving there in an ambulance.

"He had rung me earlier that morning, totally breathless; I knew the end was near as Pat had warned us about the final symptoms of pancreatic cancer. Allison Dodds (whom I have known for over 30 years) was the nurse who helped admit Dad and was with me when the doctor declared him to be dying. I will never forget her kindness on that afternoon, nor that of the rest of the staff who supported us for weeks afterwards.

"My daughter Laura (who took my Mum’s death really badly in 2001) had counselling through the hospice afterwards via email, and I knew that I could pick the phone up at any time if I needed advice or help.

"Six months later I decided to volunteer there, but it was too soon and I couldn’t follow through with it. Despite this, I will do all I can to help Manorlands, where so many of my friends and friends’ family have passed away over the years. They truly are angels in human form."

More about Manorlands Hospice