Caring for People in Harrow & Brent

Latest News and Info

St Luke’s appoints new Chair, Meg Lustman

St Luke’s Hospice is delighted to announce the appointment of our new Chair, the highly qualified Meg Lustman, who has taken up her position at the helm of our Board of Trustees replacing our longstanding Chairman, Gillian Schiller. Gillian has reached the end of her term of office after serving on the Board for 11 years. We give her our enormous gratitude for her many years of dedication to the Hospice and will be celebrating Gillian’s achievements with our staff and volunteers later this month.

Meg commented, “I am thrilled and privileged to be writing to you as the Chair of St Luke’s and would like to thank the Board of Trustees and Lindsey for the opportunity to support the very important work that St Luke’s provides to its community. I live in Brent with my family and, whilst I have not yet needed St Luke’s, I know the importance of good palliative and end-of-life care and the invaluable services that community hospices provide. The passion and professionalism of the staff and volunteers at St Luke’s shines through, as well as their commitment to patients and their families and their desire to give them the very best care.

To give you an idea of how I can support St Luke’s CEO, Lindsey Bennister, and the team at St Luke’s; I have led many well-known retail brands through transformation and growth as they re-shaped their operations and culture to be better suited to changing market conditions and the needs of their customers. In my post-executive career, I offer my experience and network in the form of Advisor, Mentor and Non-Executive and have been building a varied and wonderful portfolio of roles.  My focus now is to work with clever leaders doing good things with purposeful organisations and I want to contribute and to learn in equal measure. I choose to work with leaders and teams who are open, ambitious and brave, all of which aligns so well with the work that Lindsey is leading at St Luke’s.

I plan to get to know our communities over time and to hear what they think we need to do to make St Luke’s even better, whether it’s in supporting our patients and their families; as a great place to work; in our shops; or as a valuable partner to our many valued supporters.

I look forward to meeting you all and to working together to ensure that St Luke’s continues to be a great place to work, and that it continues to provide excellent care to our communites.”

Life After Poppy

A guest blog from Mos Pracdel who launched a book on Valentine’s Day and wrote a poem about his wife, Poppy, after she died at the hospice.

It has been almost 3 years and a half that my beautiful wife left us. After a long and painful battle with cancer for over many years, her battered body could no longer keep going and her flame was extinguished.

People say that things will get better with time and that time is the best healer. Some may find that this is true but, for me, I’m not sure that things get ‘better’, they are just different, not as raw, sad and painful perhaps.  We just have to do our best every day and adapt the best we can to our new circumstances in life. Easier said than done though.

I still miss my wife every day and I continue to talk to her.  She was the clever and sensible one and I still ask for her advice.  It is my belief that our loved ones, truly loved ones, never leave us. My mum left us 36 years ago and I still miss her.  My dad, it was 19 years ago, and I also miss him.  A lot.  And I still talk to them every so often!  My grandparents passed away a long time ago as well, but I still have great memories of my childhood with them.  No, our loved ones never leave us because the wonderful memories of our times with them will forever be imprinted in our hearts and our minds. Our loved ones, who have departed, live through us!

Why am I writing this? And why post it today?

I have never written anything, in any forum, neither have I looked before into them. It is the first time I write something like this and perhaps it might be the last.  However, something prompted me to write this, as for many years I have seen in people the devastating effect that the passing of our loved one has on our lives and the difficulty we have in coming to terms with it.

That’s why I am writing this today, St Valentine’s Day, as it was always a special day for us.  Poppy and I were very clear that every day with your loved one is special, but some days are a bit more, and we would just do that little bit extra. Those are the days that I miss her even more: birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas festivities and today, Valentine’s Day.

Poppy was everything to me and for 23 wonderful years I was blessed with her company.  She was not only my wife, but my best friend, my confidant and my lover.  She was my life, she was my world, and when she passed away that world collapsed. I have no family here, all my family are in Spain, and neither did we have children.  She left a void in my life that cannot be explained with words: I felt so empty, utterly sad and totally lost.  I was offered counselling at the time but I graciously declined; we all deal with grief in different ways.  For me the best counselling was to have a coffee and a chat and a laugh with my friends. Fortunately, I have wonderful friends that were invaluable at the time and kept me sane.  They still do.  However, I am sure that for many people counselling has been of great help.

However, I have always struggled with finding my peace again.  I have no authority or credentials to proffer any advice to anyone, I just want to share my experience and what I have done that has worked for me.  That is the purpose of this article and, perhaps, it may be of help to someone.

Although it was not supposed to be like that, my wife passed away in a hospice, with me by her side until her last breath. She was looked after by a very dedicated team of doctors, nurses and volunteers.  They were absolutely amazing, and the experience made me realise how extraordinary people at the hospice are.  Furthermore, these organisations are almost always underfunded. Because of this, I decided that I would organise donations in memory of my wife and all contributions would go to the hospice.  When I started to organise the collecting of the donations, I contacted anyone I could think of at the time. This gave me great comfort as I did it in her memory and we raised thousands of pounds.  That felt really good and gave me some solace, as someone will benefit from it.  My wife was the kindest and more generous person I ever met, and she would have certainly have approved of what I was doing in her memory.

Later, I run a marathon (first and last, I must say!) to raise funds again for the hospice and, again, I was truly humbled by everybody’s generosity which resulted in raising an even greater amount than the first fund-raising event.

From day one, I also tried to keep busy and to make an effort to look after myself, as it is very easy to ‘let yourself go’ if you are on your own and without family.  I tried to keep active, eat healthily (although it is hard to cook for oneself every day), go out, see friends, do things.  It was difficult though when the pandemic hit us.  Yet, I tried to keep busy so my mind didn’t go to darker places, which is very easy in my case.  We had so many plans for the future, Poppy and I.  Still so much to do together: so many places to visit, so many things to see, so many experiences to share.  Now I mostly do it on my own…, but I do it!

As time went by, I was thinking of ways to raise more funds for the hospice and other cancer-related organisations.  At the same time, I wanted to do something in memory of my wife again, and as a kind of legacy, because we didn’t have children. I was thinking, “Once I go that will be it”.  That’s how the idea of writing a book came about.  It is, sadly, based on her story, written in her memory and will be her legacy.

What I’m saying here is not that you need to organise donations in the obsessive manner in which I approached it, neither do you need to run a marathon or write a book.  However, I have found that to participate in an event to raise funds for a chosen charity is very satisfying.  Everybody is so welcoming and supportive.  You might also meet likeminded people, and people that go through the same experiences as you.  The thing is just to get involved in something that is meaningful to you and makes you feel good. 

Also, the writing of the book, as painful as it was at the time, was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life.  I found it very therapeutic, cathartic even, to put pen to paper and write a few words.  Perhaps you can try as well, whatever thoughts may come to mind and whichever words you would be saying to your loved one.  I feel that if I write something down and then I read it out loud it feels much more powerful.

But ultimately, we must find a way to live in the world that is left behind after the passing of our loved one.  We are all different and have different circumstances, and the things that may be beneficial to one person may not be helpful to another.  Anything that connects us with them, and gives us a bit of internal satisfaction, is a way to take a step forward, as tiny as it may be, towards finding that internal peace that was completely shattered went they went.  I for one, still have not regained that internal peace that nowadays seems so elusive. However, I endeavour every day to do my best to keep going. 

Furthermore, something I know very well is that my wife wouldn’t want me to waste my life. Soon before she passed away, she said to me, with all the love in the world, as if knowing how much it would hurt to hear those words: “Now my love, go and live your life as we always did, with true love and to the full.  I don’t want you to be sad, I don’t want you to be unhappy, and, most of all, I don’t want you to be on your own”. I continue with my life the best I can. I have met a few ladies, with one I even thought I may have a future, but it was not to be.  I did my best but it wasn’t enough.  I didn’t tick the boxes for her I guess.  No regrets, I tried my best. 

As sad, desolate, and lonely as one may feel sometimes, we must make the most of our life. For me, personally, as difficult as it was on some days to even get up, in not doing so I feel it would have been disrespectful to my beautiful wife Poppy, and I would have been doing her a disservice.  Wasting my life is the worst thing I could do.  I can never repay her now for the unconditional love, kindness and support she gave me over 23 years.  She gave me so much love that it could last me 10 lifetimes!  I hope that all that love can go to someone else, perhaps someone that hasn’t been that fortunate.  At least that way it wouldn’t be wasted.

I was recently in Spain, in the area around Cordoba visiting family.  I went to see the Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, a wonderful medieval Palace in the historic centre of Cordoba. The gardens are grand and impressive, truly magnificent, with avenues bordered by trees, water features and statues. Utterly beautiful.  I was there visiting on my own and I truly missed my wife that day, she would have loved it.  But as I sat at one of the benches, with the canal water at my feet and the trees surrounding me, it felt kind of surreal.  So peaceful, so calm, so quiet, despite the people around.  My senses were heightened and it was like my wife was there with me, enveloping me with her everlasting love, like she was everywhere.  And as I was sitting there thinking of happier times, I put pen to paper to let my thoughts flow freely, as well as a few tears that I could not contain.  This is what came out and I dedicate it to my wife today, on Valentine’s day.

I would like to share it with you because no matter how hard it may sometimes be, I know very well my beautiful wife could no longer be here.  So much pain, so much suffering, for so many years… She had to go and now rests in peace in a much better place.  True, my wife is no longer physically here but she is now everywhere beside me.  As it is the case, most probably, with your loved one.

50% of the proceeds from Mos’ book will go to St Luke’s and to other cancer charities. It is available to buy on Amazon.

Dedicated to my beautiful wife on Valentine’s Day.


You’re in the water, you’re in the air.                                                                                                                                                             

I may not see you, but I know you are there.                                                                                                                             

In the movement of the water, in the sound of the air,                                                                                                      

in every breath I take, I know you are there.      

In the rays of the sun, in the reflection of the moon,                                                                                                                    

in the singing of the bird, I know you are there.                                                                                                                     

You went but you never left,                                                                                                                                                     

‘cos you’re my guardian angel, and I know you are there.

I may not see you, and neither hear you,                                                                                                                        

but I can certainly feel you, as YOU are EVERYWHERE.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love!

Mos Pracdel

You’ll be fine, we’ll look after you.

Interview with Anne Watson about her mum, Theresa Keenan who passed away in the Hospice on Christmas Day 2021.

My mum was very special. She was always there for us. She was kind and giving and very lovely.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer 7 years ago and then a week later found out she had Multiple Myeloma too. She went into remission with the breast cancer but it returned last summer. She was told that her only chance was to have a mastectomy but she was never right again after this operation and went downhill, eventually being admitted to hospital for 9 weeks last October.

While mum was in hospital, she lost the power of her legs. We didn’t know at this point that the cancer had spread through her whole body.

Dad went in two weeks after mum did because of issues with his Parkinson’s but he shockingly died of septicaemia shortly afterwards.

I knew about St Luke’s and how precious it is to get a bed here because I’d heard people saying it’s wonderful and that’s where they wanted to be at the end.

When the ambulance came to take mum to the Hospice she held onto her rosary beads for dear life. But when we first came in it was so lovely, calm and peaceful.

I remember Nurse Rachel’s smile. She took my mum’s hand and she gently rubbed it and said you’ll be fine. We’ll look after you. Within a couple of hours, she had started to relax.

Mum was too unwell to go to dad’s funeral so they put a screen up for her to watch it. You could see her lips mouthing the prayers. And then when it was over, she smiled and she just closed her eyes for the last time. She was so peaceful.

She died 3 days later on Christmas Day in the morning.

But the care in this place – I will never forget it. The Hospice is just amazing. When you’re in here, you’re in a different world. They take your stresses away. Everything you ask for at St Luke’s they do – they listen.

The carers would come and they’d carefully turn her around because she had blisters from the hospital on her bum and on her back. They would turn her every couple of hours and they treated her with so much dignity.

They took such care and showed so much compassion. Nurse Rose and everyone here, you build a connection with them all.

It’s a privilege to die here with the best care, love and kindness from all the staff – no money could ever be enough and I will always be grateful.

Everyone should have dignity at the end of their life, to be helped with their pain, not be scared and have their loved ones around them. My mum received all this at St Luke’s and died at peace.

Our patients urgently need new pressure relieving mattresses to prevent bedsores and give comfort to patients like Anne.

“Being at St Luke’s was the very best thing that could have ever have happened for Adrian”

Jacque Kugler recently spoke to us about why she feels St Luke’s was the best place for her ex-husband, Adrian, to be when he passed away in the Hospice in May 2019.

“We first found out that Adrian was ill just 6 weeks before he died. We didn’t know what was wrong with him but we knew that something wasn’t right. He was a gardener, and physically very fit and yet all of a sudden he couldn’t turn corners very well and struggled getting upstairs to his flat. It was bizarre. Our daughter noticed he was eating in a strange manner too. He had begun to shovel his food in quickly and that just wasn’t like him. He was a food connoisseur, a slow and thoughtful eater savouring each morsel. I also noticed his beautiful handwriting had degenerated into a scratchy and untidy script.

Given all this I took him to an emergency GP appointment. The doctor had him do a number of tests, and he giggled and was embarrassed when he couldn’t walk in a straight line. He was also tested at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington where they asked him if he recognised four famous people. He struggled with David Beckham, but when he came to Donald Trump, a person he despised he hesitated, he couldn’t conjure up the name but out came an expletive! The hospital initially thought he had rapid onset dementia. However, they diagnosed him with lung cancer that had spread to his liver and his brain – hence the unusual behaviours. Six weeks later he passed away.

I took him home for Easter as his short term memory was failing and he kept waking up in the hospital in distress not knowing where he was. His fiancé flew back from Germany and we both looked after him for two weeks but then he deteriorated rapidly and became a danger to himself, making his care difficult. I contacted St Luke’s because I know how lovely it is. I knew he would love the garden. They gave him the best room in the Hospice, the one surrounded by their beautiful Wisteria which was in full bloom and had a heavenly scent. I remember the glorious sunshine and him with his sunglasses out on his patio.

I arranged for Adrian and his fiancé to marry the day after he was given his room at the Hospice. The staff went above and beyond and decorated his room with the Hospice chef making a wedding cake for them.

His bedroom had a spare bed where his fiancé was able to stay so he was never, ever alone. Alan, the Sound Therapist, kindly came and sang to Adrian with this guitar the first week we arrived. Being allowed to stay and sleep in the room with Adrian made the two weeks bearable for his fiancé. Unprompted, the staff offered her massages knowing it was an emotionally demanding time. Everyone at St Luke’s was so lovely. The Hospice helped with everything for Adrian, they bathed and changed him. Everyone was so kind and thoughtful. They saw us as a family unit and just let us just be. They took a shine to Adrian, and nothing was too much trouble to do for us. Being at St Luke’s was the best thing that could ever have happened for Adrian.

People have a fear of Hospices; death is still such a taboo subject, but St Luke’s is a beautiful place to spend your last days. You are treated with the utmost dignity and respect by all the staff. If I had the choice, St Luke’s is where I would want to die, safe, loved and well cared for.

One day someone you love might need this beautiful end to their life where kindness is key. That’s why everyone should support the Hospice. I am still able to show my support by playing St Luke’s Lottery, one for me and our daughter. I was lucky enough to win £1000 within a few months of playing. Buy a Christmas Lotto subscription for family and friends –it is a win win for everyone!”

Lord Popat of Harrow Applauds 35 Years of Care at St Luke’s Hospice With a Celebration at the House of Lords

As a founding Director and Patron of St Luke’s Hospice, Lord Popat of Harrow is the charity’s longest standing supporter. It therefore gave him much pleasure recently to host a celebratory afternoon tea at the House of Lords in honour of our 35th anniversary. Held on Wednesday 9 November in the stately and spectacular Cholmondeley Room & Terrace, the event was a wonderful way to bring together key members of staff, trustees and funders to look back with pride on the Hospice’s achievements and milestones over the last 35 years, and to share our vision for the future.

It was a fantastic and hugely enjoyable occasion with a lot of warmth, support and positivity for the Hospice from around 150 attendees, including the Mayor of Harrow, MPs, Councillors, NHS commissioners, plus many trust, community and legacy supporters. In a touching moment, a local 11 year old boy who had raised £1,000 for the Hospice spoke to the room and was delighted when Lord Popat matched his donation there and then with a cheque for £1,000! The invitees were also moved to hear from Nick Lakhani about how his mother found great comfort from the compassionate staff at St Luke’s during her final days and why he continues to find ways to show his appreciation for the care provided to her.

We have received some fantastic feedback about the event with guests commenting:

“What a lovely afternoon that was (a rare treat for us in the NHS) and such a great achievement for St Luke’s Hospice celebrating 35 years of brilliant care and support to so many people. I felt very honoured to be there and it was lovely to celebrate all the fantastic work that you and your teams all do.”

“I honestly felt last Wednesday was a once in a life time for me and felt so humbled to be celebrating with you after the years we have all worked together.”

Commented Lindsey Bennister, St Luke’s CEO, “It is quite incredible to look back on our humble beginnings and reflect on the milestones that have brought us to where we are today and to celebrate that journey together with the community and Lord Popat, who has always been by our side. From the first charity shop in 1991 to day care services and an Inpatient Unit and moving into Kenton Grange in 2000, it has kept on growing to include teams of doctors, nurses, events, fundraising and educational staff and volunteers and 18 shops. It is now serving the needs of the Harrow and Brent communities 7 days a week, caring for nearly 2,000 people a year at home, in care homes and in the Hospice. Just as the Hospice has grown, so too has the number of people needing our care. Together with the support of our community we can make sure that we continue to meet those needs into the next 35 years and beyond.”

Please enjoy clicking through our selection of photos below:
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“Every time I think of St Luke’s I have nothing but positive, uplifting memories and I light up with a smile.”

My mother was very lucky to experience her last few days in the care of the special place that is St Luke’s Hospice. I cannot describe the gratitude I have for this charity. The loving care and consideration they provided, not only for my mother but also my family, was profound and is the definition of altruism. It meant my mother was able to live her last few days pain-free, peacefully and with dignity. I cannot emphasise how different our memories would be if it was not for the benevolence St Luke’s Hospice afforded my family.

Mum had been diagnosed with breast cancer but bravely battled for 2 years through chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiotherapy. Her inner strength shone through. Doctors confirmed that her treatment was successful and that she could continue to enjoy her life. However, 3 months later she suddenly became unwell. After several tests, the hospital confirmed the cancer had returned and aggressively spread through her body. Our life was turned upside down when we were told she only had days to live.

A palliative nurse introduced us to St Luke’s Hospice and from that moment, it seems as if we were given a divine gift. A spacious room became available with peaceful views of the garden but she was adamant she did not want to leave home. However, two of St Luke’s home visiting nurses came to the house to introduce themselves. From that moment, their warmth and even humour made it an easy decision for my mum. So much so that her brief time there made it feel like home and it would have been difficult to make her leave.

This year has been a special year for me personally as I have connected with dozens of people who are involved with St Luke’s. I participated in their annual 51 mile fundraising walk this summer, where I met all the walkers, staff and other family volunteers. They even hosted a BBQ reunion as a thank you to all the fundraisers. It was a pleasure to have been involved but an even greater privilege to get to know so many of the staff and volunteers and to see first-hand how crucial these fundraising events are for St Luke’s survival. I have made some great friends and I look forward to supporting this wonderful charity over the coming years.

Grief from bereavement has undoubtedly been the hardest thing I have faced in my life. Taking mum to the Hospice, with the knowledge she would never come home, should have left a scarring memory. But the truth is, every time I think of St Luke’s I have nothing but positive, uplifting memories and I light up with a smile. They made my mum feel inner peace, leaving us too with a smile. It also means with the recent opening of their memorial garden, many families like myself can sit, reflect and feel close to their lost loved ones – peacefully celebrating their lives.

My mother’s warmth, energy and smile would light up any room. Her mantra was: to think of others, show goodwill and always have fun with a smile. I invite you to help St Luke’s Hospice continue to carry this torch that touches every mind, heart and soul by supporting them with all the selfless work they do. They are a special charity that offers a timely reminder of the gift we all possess: humanity.

Thank you.

Honours at the Hospice for a Very Proud Moment

Nigel Hart first met Carol at a youth club back in the late 70s. He plucked up the courage to ask her out on a date five years later and within six weeks they were engaged. They wed a year later and were happily married for almost 40 years until she very sadly lost her battle with cancer last November. We met up with Nigel and their daughter Emma, to find out more about Carol’s remarkable life and to hear how she came to be presented with an MBE at St Luke’s.

Carol achieved a huge amount in her life but what always mattered most to her was family. A daughter, big sister, wife, mother to Emma and Michelle and a proud Grandma to seven grandchildren, she was also known throughout her local community as Auntie Carol.  Nigel told us, “She had this amazing love for everybody. She was like a powerhouse and was such an inspiration to people. And she was always bubbly. She had this amazing laugh. Everybody smiled when she laughed! She had this fantastic effect on everyone.”

He continued, “She was exceptionally capable. Whatever she set her mind to. She just did.” Since 2002, Carol managed over 300 volunteers for the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR). She also represented the charity at national Holocaust commemorations. She introduced services to enhance the dignity and quality of life for Holocaust survivors and she was a lifeline for many, keeping in regular contact on the telephone with those who were alone. In 2019 Carol was nominated for Woman of the Year but the TV awards event was postponed two years in a row because of Covid and she sadly never got to go.

Carol had already survived stage 4 breast cancer so when she learnt in the summer of 2020 that she now had uterine cancer, she was stoic. She initially carried on working, with many around her unaware of her serious illness. Emma told us that she even organised a family holiday to Center Parcs for the family that August, bringing all the food. But between September and November she suffered a very quick decline. During that time there were many hospital visits but Emma added, “I don’t think any of us thought it would end so quickly.”

When Carol was referred to St Luke’s, it was already somewhere very familiar to Nigel because his mother had passed away here six years ago. “My parents actually celebrated their 65th anniversary while she was in the Hospice. Everyone was amazing.” He continued, “When Carol phoned me to say that they were stopping her treatment, I knew then that that she wouldn’t have much longer. They said they would transfer her to St Luke’s and I basically thought there is no better place.”

But months before coming to St Luke’s, Carol had been told that she was on the New Year’s Honours List to receive an MBE for her services to the AJR. She had received a letter saying it was going to be on 15 December at Windsor Castle. Nigel told us, “I think she hoped it was going to be William to give it to her. But by that time she was struggling with walking and we didn’t think she would make it. We spoke to the Cabinet Office and St Luke’s and it was quickly arranged that this immensely proud moment could take place at the Hospice.”

Emma added, “At first Mum was adamant she didn’t want it because she’d basically been in her nightdress for the last six weeks and hadn’t got out of bed. She wasn’t in the headspace to be thinking about such a thing. A part of us was really worried, were we doing the wrong thing?” So it wasn’t arranged until the day it was officially rubberstamped. “Then she started worrying about what she was going to wear and the earrings and the jewellery and the makeup but we helped her figure it all out and she was very happy that we did”.

It was so special. St Luke’s gave us this lovely room and this guy arrives in his fancy car with a flag on the front and he comes out wearing his uniform including a sword. Me and my sister were Facetiming our children, so all the grandchildren were watching. It was a wonderful afternoon and I think she really appreciated it. She was really happy and although exhausted afterwards, she seemed really at peace.”

Very sadly, Carol passed away just four days later.

Nigel told us, “The Hospice is such a wonderful place and gave us peace of mind. We always knew that she would be properly cared for here. We were there just ten days but the staff, they just keep going and helping people.”

Wanting to help and remain a part of the Hospice community, Nigel undertook the Annual Walk this summer, raising much needed funds. ”When I heard about the walk, I thought, I’ve got to do it. Because you need the funds and I’ll do whatever I can do to help.”

Why I have volunteered for St Luke’s for over 20 years

I was a very young child when my father passed away and then eighteen months later my mother also died, both of them from cancer. I was too young to understand what was happening. Luckily for me and my sister, we were then brought up by two aunts and uncles. As these losses occurred shortly after World War II, neither of our aunts and uncles were able to take the two of us together as they had children of their own so I was brought up by one aunt and uncle and my sister by the other. Fortunately, both families lived very close to each other.

Fast forward sixty plus years and when I was coming up to retirement, I used to pass The Grange building at St. Luke’s Hospice every day on the way to work. The Grange is a most beautiful building and used to be a Manor House.  

Because of the many losses in my family, the thought kept coming to me that I’d like to volunteer for a charity that helps cancer patients when I retire. Then in 2002 I applied for the voluntary post of receptionist at St Luke’s and was accepted at the end of April. I had previously been employed as a secretary/PA to the Chairman and Company Secretary of a FTSE 100 company.

My duties were during a four-hour shift, once a week, and I chose Wednesday afternoons. I really enjoyed these shifts, working with one other volunteer.  Many families and friends of the patients visited for the first time and were amazed that the Hospice is like a 5-star hotel with exemplary care provided by the medical staff. Receptionists’ duties are mainly to greet visitors, answer the telephone and frank post. I worked with many different people and with one lovely lady in particular for ten years. Many of them became my friends.

The only time (other than illness and holidays) I didn’t work was during the lockdown from March to October 2020. 

This July at a summer party to celebrate 35 years of care, I was presented with my 20-year badge, together with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, bottle of Prosecco and chocolates. I was also handed a lovely letter of thanks for my loyalty and dedication which I shall cherish.

I’ve loved every moment volunteering at St. Luke’s. It’s a cheerful place, the staff and other volunteers are so friendly. After completing just over 20 years of service and because I’m not as fit as I was, I decided that I had done my bit for this wonderful charity and that someone else should take my place.

Helping Our Patients Travel 1st Class to Their Journey’s End

My name is Lorraine and I am the Lead for the North Brent Specialist Community Palliative Care Team across Harrow and North Brent where our nurses provide daily specialist care in over 560 homes every year.

The best way for me to tell you more about what we do is to take you on a journey with me to meet a patient and family we cared for at home.

When we first met George, he was 67 and living with his wife Jane. They had been married for 46 years. They had a 27 year old daughter who was planning to get married in 6 months’ time and both described her as their precious miracle because they had waited so long for her.

He was in a wheelchair because of a recent fall and told us that he had been given a prognosis of 9 months to live. He was also waiting for what he called ‘D Day’. He had marked the day on a calendar with a big red cross and told us he was hoping to die before then so that he wouldn’t have to deal with what he referred to as the ‘wedding issue’. He was aware of how upsetting this was for his wife and daughter and as a result they had stopped discussing the wedding around him. 

George described himself as a stoic, private, proud man who believed that pain was part of his disease and ‘something he had to live with’. He was a retired military man & had always been very proud of his profession but had severed contact with his friends and colleagues of the regiment when he was diagnosed.  His wife told us that some of his friends had stopped calling now. She had kept contact but was now ‘pulling back’ as she did not want to betray his feelings.

George had always been an avid football fan. However he had lost interest in watching or discussing football & had not left the house for 3 months since his last hospital appointment when it was decided he was no longer well enough for any further treatment.

George said he did not want to attend his daughter’s wedding as he had always envisaged he would walk her down the aisle but as he could no longer walk, he refused to attend.  He had said to me, “I mean, Lorraine, what’s the point?” “That’s how she’ll remember me” and “Everyone will be looking at me, not her”.

We worked with George and involved his wife in helping manage his symptoms which started to improve his quality of life.

As George developed a greater understanding of the services we could offer he began to become interested in the Wellbeing Centre and requested a referral. Through services available we were able to provide physiotherapy and complementary therapies to help build his confidence and improve his mobility.

Fundraising managed to source football tickets and supported George to attend a football match with his future son in law.  He used the wheelchair on this occasion which was a huge step for him. He reported a “thoroughly enjoyable if not somewhat exhausting day” – made even better by the fact that his team won.  

After this, his wife started to notice that he would take more of an interest in things around the home. He gave permission for his wife to make contact with some of his old friends and colleagues.

George unfortunately then experienced a further deterioration and although he wanted to die at home, requested an admission to St Luke’s Inpatient Unit to see if we could help improve his symptoms. 

Map of Harrow and Brent with location arrows pointing to patient visits
Every pin on this map is a patient like George.

Whilst an inpatient he continued with another course of physiotherapy and pain management and was using the wheelchair less and less. He also met with our Patient & Family Support Service on his own and later with his wife and daughter. He was able to talk about his feelings around illness and worries about the wedding and the future. George was discharged home and continued with the community team support.

I am delighted to tell you that George did walk Shelly down the aisle.

He felt this was a significant life event and was happy to ‘give her away’ to a NEW man who he could trust would take care of her after he was gone.

A few weeks after the wedding Jane organised a tea for some of the regiment and reported that George really enjoyed ‘catching up’.

Soon after this George’s condition deteriorated further referral to H&H meant George and Jane were able to get the extra support they needed to stay at home. George died a week later at home with his wife and daughter by his side.

We did a home visit following his death where Jane informed me that George had talked about this cancer journey when looking through a holiday album one day. He had told her “Jane, we are all on a journey, only, for some of us, we know that the time is limited until we reach our destination”. George had wanted us to know that he felt we were the “best travel agents he had ever dealt with and that St Luke’s ensured he travelled 1st Class”.

I remember Jane’s words well. She said, “Remember Lorraine, you cannot change the final destination but you can have a positive impact on the journey. You all helped guide George and all of us on how to live until he died and we will never forget the impact this had”.

“Coming to the Hospice was the one piece of luck she had”

This year would have been the 50th wedding anniversary of David Taylor and his wife, Barbara. We caught up with David recently to hear about her care here at St Luke’s with him here by her side. Having spent her final weeks at the Hospice in the summer of 2019, we also heard about how finally being pain free meant she that she could enjoy her last weeks with her family.

In the spring of 2019 Barbara Taylor started getting some bad pains in her stomach. She went to see her doctor and he initially thought it was just a strain caused by some torn muscles. But when she went back a week later and the pain had moved, the GP said that she needed to have an urgent blood test. She was referred to hospital as a walk in patient but David told us how difficult it was to get her there because she was in absolute agony. “I almost had to carry her down the stairs just to get her to the hospital.”

The following week she had to return for some more tests and it was a week later that the consultant told Barbara it was a tumour. That was in May 2019. Very sadly and shockingly, Barbara passed away just four weeks after her diagnosis.

Barbara’s worst fear was that her life would end there at the hospital. David told us, “She was in such pain one Sunday and fortunately we had a nurse from St Luke’s who had been visiting us here and she had left an emergency telephone number. I rang St Luke’s in the night and told a very helpful lady that Barbara was in real agony. She arranged for a GP to visit Barbara early the next morning and he determined that she needed to go into hospital.” He called an ambulance that arrived at 8.30am but luckily, at the exact same time, the nurse from St Luke’s rang to say that there was a bed here for her and that she could be accommodated at the Hospice in a room overlooking the rose garden. The nurse spoke to the ambulance driver and they agreed that she would come to the Hospice instead of to the hospital.

David spoke to us about how well Barbara’s pain was managed, “The Hospice was fantastic. As soon as we arrived the nurse was waiting for her. They assessed her and told me to get some coffee and immediately put her on morphine. The pain began to ease straight away and she started looking brighter. From then on she was a lot brighter. As her pain increased, they would increase her dosage but I would say that the whole time she was there, she was pain free. In fact the doctor told her that the nurses had said that she didn’t call them often enough! They looked after her pain extremely well. She was well enough to enjoy one of your music therapy sessions and we enjoyed a game of Scrabble. On the Tuesday before she passed away, I was able to use a wheelchair and wheel her around the rose garden. She deteriorated on the Thursday evening.”

David very sadly lost Barbara on Sat 22 June. Like so many others, he has since continued to be a part of the St Luke’s community, supporting the Hospice and joining in with events. Asked why he thinks others should support the Hospice, he said, “St Luke’s do a fantastic job looking after people at the end of their life and they give people a choice. Barbara did not want to be in hospital at the end of her life. One stand out moment for me was when Mary, the nurse, had helped to make Barbara look wonderful for my visit. They had showered her, washed and did her hair and she looked really great. Getting that place at the Hospice was the one piece of luck she had”.

With many thanks to David Taylor for sharing his experience with us.

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