Four years ago, we pulled into the car park at John Taylor Hospice for the very first time. I was coming to stay at the hospice for respite care and I don’t mind sharing with you that I was petrified.
What was I scared of? Looking back, I think it was a fear of the unknown. A fear that I didn’t know anybody and that I might be put in a bed and just left on my own. At home everything was set up for me – how would I settle in an unfamiliar place?
After many tears we got out of the car and made our way into the hospice. As soon as I walked through those doors I met Irene who introduced herself with a big smile. I was greeted by warm-hearted people who asked me my name and in turn introduced themselves by telling me theirs. I felt welcomed – like being invited into the home of friends.
On the first night away from my family I got a bit upset. Katie, a nurse on the ward, saw that I was crying and she came over, sat with me and held my hand. A small gesture yes, but one that made a huge difference. That offer of a comforting hand stirred in me many emotions and feelings. By reaching out a hand of friendship she made me feel reassured and understood. That connection meant, without even saying a word: “Hilary, I’m here for you.”
On the second day I got to know some of the other patients. We’d talk a lot – anyone who knows me will tell you I like a good chat. I met some wonderful people and I wasn’t sad anymore. Our room was full of laughter.
That second day sticks in my mind for another reason – that’s the day I met Phillip. He worked in the In-Patient Unit at that time and he’s just a little younger than my son. He’s a gentleman, caring and compassionate and he made me feel so comfortable.
You’re probably wondering why I have respite care at John Taylor, so I’ll take you back a little. Back to 24 November 1990 at 1:20pm to be precise. That’s when I got the news. I’d suspected it but it still came as a shock to us all to be told I had multiple sclerosis (MS). I was a Regional Training Manager travelling across England and Wales clocking up nearly 5,000 miles a month. I had a job I loved, a husband and an 18-month-old daughter. I was not going to be beaten!
I’ve tried to remain positive and strong. I couldn’t have managed without the unwavering support and love of my truly amazing family. My husband of 34 years Richard, daughter Charlotte and son Sam are more wonderful than words can express. I adore them and they’re the most important people in the world to me.
MS has not stopped me from being Hilary – a wife, a mother, a friend. It hasn’t stopped me from conquering my fears and facing them head-on. I mean, what better way is there to face a lifelong fear of heights than jumping 10,000 feet from a plane in a tandem sponsored skydive?
I’ve been to stay at John Taylor many times over the last four years and believe that respite care is very important. I get to relax and have a soak in the jacuzzi bath and the food is delicious! Steve and Clare cater to my gluten-free diet and nothing is too much trouble. Four years on, Phillip still comes visit me every time I stay at the hospice and he brightens my day.
Physically my respite stays help to reduce my swelling and they relax my back. Emotionally a respite break is like regeneration and it calms me down. It also gives my husband Richard some time to himself.
To anyone who is coming to stay in respite at the hospice for the first time and is feeling worried or scared – I totally understand how you feel as I felt exactly the same. My experience here allows me to share first-hand with you how every patient at John Taylor is treated as an individual.
I know it can’t always be easy for the hospice staff but they never show that and you’re always made to feel like their priority. They’re made from a special mould and if they were paid their weight in gold I still don’t think it would be enough. John Taylor Hospice is a loving and caring place to be. You’ll be sure of a warm welcome, greeted with smiles, kind hearts and always be offered a comforting hand when you need it the most.