Hospice fundraiser helps families stay together over festive season

Ian Gray with his family, who were supported by Rennie Grove Hospice Care.
Ian Gray with his family, who were supported by Rennie Grove Hospice Care.

A hospice charity has launched its Christmas fundraising appeal to help keep families at home together this festive season.

Rennie Grove Hospice Care is asking people to help fund the cost of its specialist nursing care over the festive period when its 24/7 responsive service, which is provided 365 days a year, becomes even more vital.

Rennie Grove’s Director of Nursing and Clinical Services, Sue Varvel, said: “Our patients and their families say that spending time together at home is particularly important to them at Christmas time because, for many, it may be the last Christmas they spend together. Our Hospice at Home nurses provide specialist and hands-on nursing care in patients’ homes in order to avoid unnecessary and distressing hospital admissions wherever possible so that families can be together.

“Christmas at home with our families is something money can’t buy - but sadly there is a real cost we must cover to make this happen for our patients.”

Ian Gray was only 55 when he died, just three days before last Christmas. Staying at home during his final days was so important to him, as it meant he could share the precious time he had left with his family. His wife, Marg, recalls: “People say to me ‘how awful for you that it happened at Christmas’, but I’m glad that it was at Christmas rather than in dismal, dark November or January. The Rennie Grove nurses enabled the inevitable to be a very precious time for us. To have had him with us comfortably up till the end meant so much. It sounds bizarre to describe it like that but we were all camped out in the living room with Ian, his beloved spaniel, Woody, on the bed and our cat,

Marmite. He lay next to our massive Christmas tree, looking out at the brightly coloured lights that adorned the new koi carp pond he had so desperately wanted.” Ian’s cancer was first detected in his neck in December 2013. Ultrasound, biopsies, surgery and radiotherapy followed.

Marg said: “Devastatingly, the results of the post-radiotherapy scan showed that the cancer had already metastasised into his brain and spread in that short time. They then told us he had months left to live, and that was still less than nine months from the initial diagnosis.”

Marg says the Rennie Grove nurses helped her to cope with the shock and the overwhelming feeling of responsibility, as well as helping Ian to make the most of the time he had left. She said: “With their reassurance I felt able to manage his meds and their support meant Ian kept on living his life instead of waiting for his death. I’m so glad he had a good quality of life right up to the end – and as pain-free and peaceful an end as possible – thanks to Rennie Grove.”

The charity is already making plans for the festive period; with weather conditions likely to worsen and many services closing down for the Christmas holidays, Rennie Grove’s responsive service will be crucial to helping as many families as possible spend Christmas together at home.

Sue added: “We’re already making plans alongside GPs, pharmacists and other healthcare specialists to ensure that each patient’s needs can be met this Christmas. Much of the preparation involves ‘just in case’ medication: appropriate drugs and pain-relief being readily available should a patient’s condition suddenly deteriorate. We’re also liaising with 4x4 drivers so that our nurses can safely reach patients irrespective of the weather and road conditions.”

Just £20 could fund a return trip to a patient needing pain-relief this Christmas, or pay for an hour-long nursing visit to a patient’s home at any time of the day or night. You can donate online at www.renniegrove.org/donate or by phone on 01442 890222. You can also read Marg’s full story at www.renniegrove.org/christmastogether