Early referral to hospice care helps patient lead active life

Categories: Care and Featured.

When 57-year-old Hamid Hajilou was diagnosed with stomach cancer, little things that most people take for granted like walking, sleeping and cooking became a struggle. Here he explains how an early referral to Pilgrims Hospices in Kent has helped him get back on his feet and resume the active lifestyle he’s always enjoyed.

Hamid worked as a car sales manager for more than 20 years, with previous experience in the retail trade and catering industry. He retired in April 2019, but after returning from a family holiday later that year he began to feel unwell. In October he started experiencing sciatica-like leg pain which made it difficult for him to stand. This impacted his ability to cook, a hobby he loves: “I’m a big Rick Stein fan, I could watch his shows for hours!” he says. The pain was so debilitating that he didn’t know where to turn.

Hamid’s wife Peyma is a Maternity Matron at East Kent Hospitals. “I had my medical head on and I knew that his pain wasn’t being managed” she explains. “We didn’t know what to do, but because I have an NHS background I was able to navigate and help us access the care he needed. Once Pilgrims was involved, everything changed within two weeks.”

Hamid adds: “The Pilgrims care team are angels, particularly the hospice nurse who saw me initially and the consultant Dominique who prescribed me the correct pain relief – she spent two hours with Peyma and I in between her already full day.”

Hamid was diagnosed with stomach cancer in December 2019, which has spread to his back. He had radiotherapy treatment at Kent and Canterbury Hospital on 31 December and was then transferred to the Canterbury hospice as an inpatient, before being discharged nine days later.

His pain was managed so successfully by Pilgrims that he could stand up without a wheelchair, something which hadn’t seemed possible before his referral. He was anxious about going home in case things took a downward turn again, but Pilgrims is continuing to support him.

“I’d been in so much pain that I didn’t even care about the cancer, I just wanted the pain to stop” he says. “When I was offered a room in the hospice, that seemed dreamy. I sobbed with relief.”

“I can’t speak highly enough about Pilgrims, not only of the staff but of the concept – they just listen to you. My life changed when I got to know the hospice team. They asked about my wellbeing and mental health, including my spirituality, everything. I’m not religious but I really appreciated it, just the fact they cared enough to check.

“Any food I wanted was cooked to order and hospice nurses would come and talk to me. One nurse, Seema, gave me a foot massage in the early hours of the morning. That humanitarian aspect blew me away. The hospice staff are always so accommodating, saying with a smile, “Just call us if you need anything.” That means so much.”

The hospice got Hamid’s symptoms under control, ensured he was on the correct medication and facilitated a smooth return home. Social workers helped him secure a disabled badge and the occupational therapy team arranged home aids including a bed, chair cushion and stool for cooking in the kitchen. Hamid has also accessed physiotherapy services. At a recent hospital appointment, his consultant was amazed at how well he is doing since his referral to Pilgrims’ care.

Peyma says: “We need to change the perception of hospice care, because it can affect prognosis and quality of life in such a positive way. There is so much to be offered, even little things you take for granted like being able to shower or being made a cup of tea. It feels like home.

“When you’re not in pain, you’re not thinking about cancer; it’s not shadowing our lives anymore. Who knows what’s around the corner? We just take each day as it comes.”

“Pilgrims has shown us so much kindness and compassion” Hamid says. “If I won the lottery, I would make a large donation to the charity because it has made such a difference to my life. Thanks to the hospice team, I’m pain-free and that’s the most important thing. With their support, I hope this means that I can have a few years of good quality life with my beautiful wife and lovely son.”

For more information visit Pilgrims Hospices

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