‘IT HAS saved my life,” is what 51-year-old Leslie Hillman-Hunter says about St Barnabas Spalding.
This is the 30th anniversary of St Barnabas in Lincolnshire, although the Spalding hospice on Wygate Park originally known as Jenny Freeman Lodge was opened in 1994. In that time the charity has cared for thousands of patients and their families living with a life-threatening illness.
However, it is the individual experiences that are important, and the way the hospice in Spalding can help and support people through what can otherwise be an incredibly difficult time.
Leslie, from Donington, has been attending the hospice for 18 months, initially referred there by her Macmillan nurse following a diagnosis for aggressive bowel cancer that was followed by five weeks of intensive therapy and a long spell in hospital.
“From the first day I came I fitted in,” says Leslie. “It’s because everybody here has some terminal illness and a lot of us have had cancer and we can sit and talk about how we feel about it, which is important. My husband, Jerry, has been absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for better, but sometimes you feel you don’t want to keep burdening them.”
While she is currently free of cancer, Leslie has been left with various problems as a result of major surgery, such as her mobility, hands and ankles and other parts of her body.
At the hospice, Leslie and the other day visitors are able to access therapies – for things such as fatigue and anxiety – as well as join in occupations, such as painting or exercise.
Day therapy team leader for the south of Lincolnshire Rachel Jones explains that the centre is open two days a week, Wednesday and Thursday, for an average of 20 patients a day to attend day therapy.
“Day therapy is a way of empowering patients with incurable diseases,” said Rachel. “They can be literally at the beginning of that journey or towards the end of life, but the idea of day therapy is to empower them to manage their own lives. It’s not about looking after them; it’s about giving them the tools to look after themselves.”
Patients and their carers are able to drop in during those days for social interaction or information and they are able to choose the therapy they need, such as dealing with breathlessness, one-to-one nurse support, relaxation or symptom control.
While the hospice is only open two days a week for day therapy, it offers other services seven days a week, and these cover bereavement support, welfare advice and support, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and complementary therapy and – most important of all for many people – a hospice at home team of ten.
St Barnabas chief executive Sarah-Jane Mills said: “As a listening organisation as well as a caring one, we are launching new initiatives to ensure we continue to meet the needs and wishes of local people, who say that they want increased support at home, and a greater involvement in controlling the care they receive in their final days.”
A co-ordinator organises the staff and the all-important volunteers. “They are really important. We can’t stress that enough,” says community fundraiser Vikki Allen. “We couldn’t run our service without the volunteers.”
Volunteers help out at the hospices but they are also on the ground working very hard fundraising, from small events such as coffee mornings right up to the Moonlight Sleepwalk taking place on Saturday, July 14, starting from Deeping Leisure Centre in Deeping St James, with registration from 9.15pm. Register online at www.stbarna bashospice.co.uk or ring Vikki on 07435 753098.
Vikki says: “All our services are free and as a local charity we need to raise over £3.1m each year throughout the county to continue the care and support we provide.”
Lincolnshire has eight hospices, including a specialist 11-bed in-patient unit with family rooms at Lincoln used by people from South Holland, which Vikki says is expensive to run. However, often it’s the small things – like a willingness to listen – that patients particularly appreciate.
John Dymock (63), of Sutton Bridge, has only been attending day therapy in Spalding for eight weeks. An MS sufferer with prostate cancer, John says: “Everybody is so nice and friendly and it makes all the diffference to me having so many people here to talk to and listen to. You can’t keep burdening family with the problems because it’s not fair, although my wife Alison is excellent. This gives her a break and that makes me feel better, otherwise I sit at home worrying.”
n St Barnabas Spalding is holding a cream tea at the hospice on Saturday, July 7 (2pm to 4pm, free entry) and a 30th celebration Party in the Park on Glebe Field, Pinchbeck, on Sunday, August 26 (12noon to 5pm, entry with small donation). The event will include a fun day, live music, a bar as well as cakes and other refreshments – take your own blankets and chairs. A tug-of-war will take place if there are enough teams – again, ring Vikki if you can make up a team.