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This Hospice Care Week, which runs nationally from 10 – 14 October, we’re sharing stories that show how we strive to deliver on our aim of providing “Quality time for everyone” across the hospice

Doug Melbourne, 88, spent six weeks in our Adult Inpatient Unit at St Oswald’s Hospice this summer – where his health took a dramatic turnaround…for the better.

“He just woke up one morning and asked for some Weetabix!” remarked his daughter, Anne – who was surprised at the progress her dad made whilst here.

Anne said:

“You tend to have this perception that hospices are overwhelmingly sad places where people go to die. And often, of course, that is the case. But I just wanted to make a tribute to the staff for the compassion and care and also their imagination – for the things they come up with to make things special and create memories for the family.”

Doug’s other daughter, Sue, told us:

“Dad was very much the family man; as a son, husband, father and grandfather – and he’s very much loved for it.  He’s always been ready to help and nothing is too much trouble for his family. My niece says Grandad is the most selfless person she has ever known.”

Born and raised in Cambridge, but moving around the country with his work for British Rail, Doug brought up his family in York. In later years, with one daughter living in Newcastle and the other in London, Doug travelled back and forth from York to Gosforth weekly to be a hands-on Grandad for Grandson, Tom.

However, Doug developed Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a type of blood cancer, and as his condition got worse, the time came for him to move to Gosforth permanently so daughter, Sue, and grandson, Tom, could be on hand to help him.

That was when Doug first came to St Oswald’s Hospice as an outpatient.

Sue told us:

“Dad had done very well with regular blood transfusions, but as the condition progresses you become more prone to infections. You need more blood transfusions, more frequently and get weaker.  So he was coming into St Oswald’s Hospice on a weekly or fortnightly basis for blood transfusions at the Focus on Living Centre.”

Anne continued:

“In March 2022, Dad had a fall at home. He was fine but needed constant care – but my sister got covid and I was having radiotherapy following surgery for breast cancer, so neither of us were available to look after him. Dr Owen Lever, who was caring for dad at St Oswald’s Hospice, suggested that dad stay in the Hospice as an Inpatient where he gave him a full health assessment so that when he went home, it was with a health care support package to meet his needs.”

In June 2022, things took a turn for the worse for Doug. Following another fall at home he ended up in hospital.

“He was really very poorly and we didn’t think he was going to make it,” Sue said. “He had multiple infections and he contracted covid as well.”

Once covid-free, Doug was transferred back to St Oswald’s Hospice for end of life care – and of course, his family all came to spend time with him:

“We were all gathered around and the first few days, Sue was there all the time. Then, when I came up from London, we were taking it in turns 24/7 to be with him,” Anne explained.

Jo Nichol, ward Sister on the Adult Inpatient Unit, told us:

“When Doug got here, it was like he’d given up. He was flat, sleepy and disengaged. We, and his family, thought he was here for end of life care but after a couple of days he started picking up.”

Daughter, Anne, laughs as she remembers:

“He just woke up one morning and asked for some Weetabix and it was onwards and upwards from there. It really was quite transformational – but slowly and surely he improved.”

Jo Nichol agrees that Doug’s transformation was remarkable:

“Doug did fantastic. He was with us for six weeks and he was a changed man by the time he left. He was joking and had a good rapport with the staff.”

Jo continued:

“His improvement was down to a combination of good care – our nursing staff are so attentive – getting back on top of his physical symptoms and giving him his confidence back. But more than that, he seemed to get his belief in living back.  He enjoyed events that we organised and having quality time with his family. The events are having a positive impact on a lot of patients’ wellbeing.”

Anne and Sue couldn’t agree more. As Anne said:

“Dad is typical of men of his generation who would dismiss the whole concept of mental health – the generation that lived through the war. But I would say, being at St Oswald’s Hospice did impact Dad’s mental health positively. Because it’s very much a holistic approach – health, and general wellbeing as well – for the patient and the family. There’s just a positivity that you can’t help but be swept along by.”

Sue added:

“The St Oswald’s Hospice team always had time for us. So, there’s an uplift of mental health across the generations – because if you have a grandchild that’s having a wobble, or a daughter who’s having a wobble, the fact that you’re being given these positive, supportive messages that come from a place of compassion and understanding and support, helps the whole family.”

Anne and Sue described all the ways the team helped them spend time with Doug and bring a smile to his face. From taking over the family room for Doug to watch his much-loved youngest grandson graduate via live stream, to waving a flag and drinking wine to celebrate the Lionesses’ victory. The family were also allowed to bring pets in for visits, spend time in the garden, and Sue had access to a keyboard in the room to play for him. Plus, a dvd player was provided for Doug to watch some favourite films.

Anne commented:

“It’s a rollercoaster going through something like this – for the whole family. And being able to spend time with each other at the Hospice is everything.”

After six weeks of improvement (and family time), it was decided that Doug was well enough to move into a local care home.

“Dad’s not going to get better, but he’s still with us and he’s doing well. Considering where we were mid-July, it’s been amazing really. The outcome is one which we would not have been able to hope for and one for which St Oswald’s Hospice played a crucial role.”

Anne ended:

“From the warm welcome at reception, to the endless patience and care from the nursing, support staff and volunteers, to the expertise and guidance of the doctors and consultants – you really do provide outstanding support.”

One of our auxiliary nurses recently said, “It makes my heart happy to see our families happy.”

Her words really do encapsulate the spirit of St Oswald’s Hospice as we strive to provide “Quality time for everyone” – and we’re so happy we were able to do that for Doug and his family.

Throughout Hospice Care Week, we’re sharing stories that show how we’re delivering on our aim of providing “Quality time for everyone”.Follow us on social media to find out more.

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