Nisha has a learning disability, and so when she was staying at St Christopher’s to help manage her symptoms following chemotherapy, it was really important to keep the pair together. And so Varsha stayed too. She kindly took the time to tell us all about her experiences at the hospice:
“I’d known about St Christopher’s since 1998, as my father had cancer and stayed on City Ward. Every year since then we’ve come along to the remembrance event at Christmas for the tree lighting service; we loved it. My sister and I would go around looking at the different stalls selling a variety of Christmas items, from handmade jewellery to toys, and then have tea and cake under the canopy. I used to donate in the bucket collections and buy things from the stalls.
“Nigel (a Nurse Consultant from the hospice) had been visiting us at home but when Nisha went to stay at St Christopher’s, it was decided we could both go. She can’t really live without me; she can communicate a small amount, but she sometimes doesn’t understand things. But I can tell through her facial features and expressions what she means. I’m her sister and know her ins and outs, her likes and dislikes; she’d have been stressed and anxious if I wasn’t there with her.
“At the hospice, she got her respite and was able to relax. When she’s relaxed, I’m relaxed. I love to see her happy.”
“We stayed on City Ward. It was just the two of us there. Nisha really enjoyed it; in fact, she didn’t want to leave! She was crying when we had to go. She loved the bath; she wouldn’t stop talking about it. She had a great experience, and the food was lovely – not like hospital food – there was a menu, and different days we got to try different cuisines. Nisha’s got a sweet tooth and loved the deserts. I use a wheelchair and we had both been shielding for months before our stay.
“It was so lovely for us to able to go into the gardens at the hospice, and we really enjoyed getting fresh air and looking at the trees and flowers and the fishpond.
“The nursing staff were brilliant. Everyone had a different personality that they brought with them. There was even nail painting and foot massage – I had it done too! Whatever Nisha does, she likes me to do as well.
“For me it’s about her; I’m there to support her. At the hospice, she got her respite and was able to relax. When she’s relaxed, I’m relaxed. I love to see her happy. If she’s happy, I’m ok, I’m doing fine. She doesn’t know how much she means to me; I really love her. I’m very protective of her; I don’t ever want to lose her.”
Nigel Dodds, the Nurse Consultant who has supported Nisha at home, explains that his role includes assessing Nisha’s symptoms related to illness, and chemotherapy, as well as liaising with her GP and hospital teams to ensure Nisha’s needs are being met and any issues coordinated and connected.
“Of course, time with the people you love can be the most precious time of all, and when you know that your friend or relative is being well looked after, you can concentrate on just being together.”
Nigel adds, “We support people to live well at home as much as possible, as that’s where most people tell us they’d rather be. But when people do come into the hospice, we want them to feel as at home as they can, whether that means bringing in a favourite blanket, or photographs, or a visit from their pet. If there are particular foods that they’d like, or if they want to sit in the café or gardens, we try and make it possible. Of course, time with the people you love can be the most precious time of all, and when you know that your friend or relative is being well looked after, you can concentrate on just being together.”
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