‘I was holding Linda’s hand when she died’ - hospice appeals for more specialist nurses

Rennie Grove specialist nurses in a patient's home
Rennie Grove specialist nurses in a patient's home

Rennie Grove Hospice Care is appealing for donations to an appeal to fund an extra hospice at home nurse.

Sue Varvel, director of nursing and clinical services, said: “Our supporters do an amazing job funding the vast majority of our services. Thanks to their contributions, 70 specialist nurses have been able to provide care to an increasing number of patients in their own homes towards the end of their lives.

“However, the number of people in need of our care continues to rise at an alarming rate. We urgently need to recruit a new nurse so we can cope with this growing demand.”

An ageing population means that people are living longer, often with multiple life-limiting conditions and it is this pattern which has seen demand for Rennie Grove’s care increasing. Sue adds: “Despite our nursing teams working at full capacity, hospice at home nurses in Bucks are in the frustrating position of having to prioritise new referrals, which effectively means they are having to manage a waiting list. In our line of work there is no time to wait: an immediate response is crucial if we are to help patients remain at home, surrounded by the people and things they love. If we can’t react straight away - it might be too late to prevent someone dying in hospital when they really want to be at home.

“If a patient is admitted to hospital and our nursing teams are unable to take anymore referrals it becomes increasingly unlikely that they will be able to get back home to their loved ones.”

David Beck’s wife, Linda, was referred to Rennie Grove when her cancer became terminal. David remembers how important it was to both of them that Linda could die at home – and how indispensable the nurses were in enabling this to happen:

David said: “When we were referred to Rennie Grove Hospice Care everything changed and improved - these amazing nurses came in and transformed the whole situation. From utter confusion we suddenly had a plan and someone to help us pull together all the strands of healthcare provision we’d been struggling to keep hold of.

“Linda was always at the centre of their care but the Rennie Grove nurses also took the time to support me too. They would talk to me candidly and sensitively about what was going to happen.

“They explained what I already knew but still struggled to accept: that Linda was going to die. I would often break down crying when we talked about it. But what they said helped me to cope: ‘focus on what can be done and ignore what can’t be changed’ they used to say.

“The nurses showed me that although Linda dying was a tragic inevitability, it was within our power to make her death the best it could possibly be.

“I was holding Linda’s hand when she died. One of the Rennie Grove nurses was with us and her being there was a gift in itself; without her there I would probably have been in utter panic.

“It was the most difficult and terrible period of my life, but also in many ways the most uplifting. I saw amazing people at work and the simple fact of people helping others at the most vulnerable point in their lives gave me faith in humanity.”

This spring the charity is aiming to raise £36,000 to cover the cost of a specialist nurse’s salary for one year.

Sue added: “With an additional nurse who can offer the same compassionate, specialist care and empathic, emotional support for all the family, we can continue to reach each and every patient as soon as they need us. Please donate whatever you can afford: help us eliminate patient waiting lists in Bucks and keep patients at home with their families.”

Visit www.renniegrove.org