21 October 2020

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Lara’s story

Before Lara died in May this year, she shared with us her experience of being looked after by the hospice during lockdown

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Lara’s support from St Christopher’s had been everything she needed. Since October 2019, she had been coming to the gym at the Sydenham site to help retain strength and mobility, been visited at home by a nurse to help with drugs and pain management and when things got really tough she came to stay on one of the wards to manage her symptoms.

Lara's lockdown story

During her week spent on the wards at St Christopher’s, Lara met Dr Emma Hall for the first time. Lara recalled the experience, “Emma spent an hour and a half talking with me, finding out who I was and what was important to me. There was none of the rush that I’d experienced with other hospital doctors at earlier stages of my treatment. She took as much time as it needed to take. I was surprised that Emma was open about discussing alternative therapies, including cannabis. It was so refreshing to be able to talk to a doctor in that way.”

Following her time at the hospice, Lara was well enough to travel to Cape Town and it was shortly after this trip that the coronavirus pandemic spread around the world; an event that completely changed the way that Lara was supported by St Christopher’s. When she arrived home, with the threat of lockdown looming, Lara went straight to her dad’s place in Suffolk to weather the storm with the people she loves.

Lara’s care was made more complex because she used a special pump that delivered pain medication directly to her spinal cord. The pump could only be managed by specialist clinicians from St Christopher’s and the University College Hospital in London. With Lara in Suffolk, Emma started working out how the hospice could continue to provide support despite the geographical distance and the new rules about social distance.

It was so refreshing to be able to talk to a doctor in that way.

Lara said, “Emma had always checked in with me while I was still at my home in West Norwood. But once I moved up to Suffolk, she started ringing every couple of days to check that everything was okay with me and that my pump was working well. Emma got in contact with my local GP in Suffolk to arrange prescriptions for my pain medication and spoke to the local hospital to make sure they were aware of my situation and any support that I might need. She spoke to the hospice that covers this area of the country and worked alongside them to help me.

Since coronavirus started, I’ve had all the support that I need and quite often I feel more supported than I was before the outbreak. I get the sense that medical teams have really doubled down during the pandemic. You worry that during all this, non-Covid patients might get lost in the panic, but I feel very lucky to have St Christopher’s looking out for me.

You worry that during all this, non-Covid patients might get lost in the panic, but I feel very lucky to have St Christopher’s looking out for me.

For me it has been a relief to be able to spend this time with Dad. My mum died from cancer when she was 27, so for him this is the second time seeing someone he loves go through this. He’s been incredibly impressed by the way St Christopher’s have helped me. There are enough worries at the moment, and knowing that I’m supported holistically is a weight off his shoulders. I can’t tell you how big a difference it makes to me knowing that St Christopher’s has my back.”

Emma made the journey all the way to Suffolk a number of times, either after work or at the weekend, to refill and adjust Lara’s pain pump. Lara’s dad Justin reflects, “This was above and beyond the call of duty and meant Lara could stay here with her family where she wanted to be until the end. This was hugely appreciated by all of us.”

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