"I want to show people that hospice care is for people of any age - no matter how young."

35-year-old Helen Hopkins has set up a fundraising group with a family focus in support of our Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice to raise funds in memory of her husband, Dan. Here, tells us more about the care she and Dan received, and how this inspired her to raise vital funds so more families can receive the same care too.

Helen Hopkins with late husband Dan and son George 546
Helen with her late husband Dan and son George.

My husband Dan was looked after at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court in July 2018. I honestly didn’t know what hospices were about before we visited, but travelling up the driveway, we knew it was where we needed to be.

When the hospital recommended to us that Dan go to the hospice, I thought: 'That’s not Dan; he wants to go home'.

I never thought I would need the services of a hospice with my 34-year-old husband having a brain tumour just from a mole. But the hospice was just completely different to anything I expected.

In the time Dan was there, I only slept at home twice; the rest of time I was there at the hospice, and I was made to feel welcome. The whole family and our friends were. It became a home from home for us.

"I went from being Dan's carer to his wife again"

While we were there, nothing was ever too much trouble for the Sue Ryder Nurses and care team around us. They always made sure we had everything we needed. We didn’t have to explain anything; they knew what we were going through.

One Friday night the nurses asked us what would we normally be up to. That’s how we ended up together in Dan’s bedroom sharing a kebab together, just like we would at home.

I went from being Dan’s carer to his wife again.

Dan was so young when he died. He had lots of friends and they came in to visit and we all made use of the hospice facilities.

In the inpatient unit, there is a little family lounge where you can go and make yourself a cup of coffee, and just be away from how intense it all is. You can be two minutes away from where your loved one’s being cared for, but you can sit and have a cup of tea and two minutes to yourself.

It was here I read a leaflet about how much it costs to keep everything there going. It made me realise that to keep this hospice going, people needed to raise funds. I wanted to give back.

"The hospice is like a second family to us"

Dan and I had a little boy, George, who was only nine months when Dan died. I wanted to do something fun that was family focused to raise funds for the hospice and show people that care at the hospice is for people of any adult age – no matter how young.

The care we were given was amazing, and even now continue to be supported through their Family Support team. I occasionally bump into the Sue Ryder Nurses who cared for us and, when I pop into the hospice to pick up items for our events or drop off funds raised, the fundraising team give such a warm welcome to me and George.

The hospice is like a second family to us. They’re all amazing and I feel like I am giving something back for the support they gave and continue to give us.

"I never knew the loss of one person would bring so many people together in support"

It’s the first time I have ever done anything like this. I work part time and have two friends, Kate and Niki, who were mine and Dan’s bridesmaids who help on the fundraising group. I am finding it so rewarding – and I am surprised by just how many people are willing to help.

I wanted a cake stall at our Easter Family Fun Day, so put a shout-out for cakes on Facebook and I had 60 comments from people who were all willing to help. It really blew me away.

Lots of friends knew what we went through as a family and they are all so willing to help support the hospice. Many of them are doing things to raise funds too – things they wouldn’t normally do. Dan’s death came completely out of left field, and I never knew the loss of one person would have the effect of having so many people coming together in support. We held our first fundraising event as a group at Christmas and raised £800.

My next event: Sunday 21st April, Gala Club

Our next event on Sunday 21st April at the Gala Club in Longford, Gloucester, will have a cake stall, Easter Scavenger Hunt, Balloon Race, Bouncy Castle, Hook a Duck and Guess the Eggs in the Jar – lots of family fun really. We have some fantastic raffle prizes too - tickets for Forest Green Rovers, Cheltenham Town Tickets, Cheltenham Races, a lovely wooden duck ornament. Tesco and Asda have also donated Easter Eggs to us – in fact I have them coming out my ears at the moment!

If Dan was here, he would probably tell me I was in my element, bossing people around and sending letters demanding stuff! I like doing this sort of thing. I like having fun. Yes, we are having fun and it is for a very sad reason, but as we are doing it all I am picturing him sat there with a pint of cider watching and shaking his head, thinking 'What is she doing now?' That’s the image I have.

I want to thank all my friends and family for their support in raising funds for the hospice, and Maria and Neil at the Gala Club in Gloucester. They are close friends who came to our wedding and we held Dan’s Wake at the club. They did an auction for us at Christmas, with the funds raised going to the hospice and they have given us the venue hire for our Easter event for free too.

If you have a spare ten minutes on Sunday 21st April, please do come along and see us and have some cake. It’s easy to get to and there’s lots of free parking too.

If reading Helen’s words has inspired you to create your own fundraising group in support of Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, email leckhampton.fundraising@sueryder.org or call 01242 246 285 for advice and support.

Author

Helen Hopkins

Wife of patient

Helen Hopkins

Helen's late husband Dan was cared for at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice in 2018. She now organises local fundraising events in support of the hospice in his memory.