“St Barnabas made the most awful eleven days of my life, that bit less awful”

10th January 2023

Woman in hospital bed with man by her side and brown dog on the bed

Michelle McKinnon recently experienced first-hand the high quality, compassionate care St Barnabas provides at its Inpatient Unit in Lincoln.

She sadly lost her mother, Georgina Thompson (better known as Gina), on 17th December after she spent eleven days in the Hospice, and Michelle is keen to share her story so others can be made aware of the outstanding care her beloved mother received in that time.

Gina worked at several schools during her career as school business manager and finance officer, as well as volunteering as treasurer for two churches and the district Scout Association. Michelle remembers how busy Gina always was and how she did things for other people, putting herself last.

Blonde woman with flower pattern top on blue background

Michelle says: “My mum was my best friend, she was a wonderfully smart, witty, and with dry sense of humour. Mum held a season ticket for Lincoln City FC, and she loved bingo, crosswords, reading, caravanning and her family. She liked watching soaps, gardening and was an absolute maths whizz!”

Gina was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in May 2021 at the age of 66 and underwent urgent intensive chemotherapy. During the treatment, she suffered a bleed on the brain and lost the use of her left side. She had to learn to talk, swallow, stand, walk, move again and spent nearly four months in the hospital before coming home.

Michelle says: “Mum was in remission for 13 months and had just started to go to bingo again, drive, walk her dog, and have her hair coloured before she relapsed in October 2022. The chemo she was offered this time had a 10% chance of working, and she caught pneumonia twice after one cycle. She asked to stop all treatment as she didn’t want any more problems, worries and illness, but she didn’t want to go home to die.

“Mum asked for just a few things; to not be in any pain and not to feel nauseous, which was her biggest issue during her whole illness. She wanted to spend time with her grandchildren without rules, timings and visiting restrictions, and also see her dogs one more time.”

Blonde woman eating bowl of custard in hospital bed

This is where St Barnabas Hospice was able to help Gina. On 6th December, she was taken into the Inpatient Unit, where she was surrounded by her family, friends and even got a visit from her much-loved dogs – Stanley and Shadow.

Michelle continues: “Everyone at the Hospice was incredible, from the receptionist to the volunteers and the cook to the nurses and doctors, I felt so welcome. Tea was constantly offered to us, and with a chef at the Unit I could stay all day without worrying about food. Mum didn’t want much to eat but loved bananas in custard. This was brought to her freshly made, and it was proper custard too!

“The staff were brilliant and at night I could go home knowing she’s in amazing hands. Mum wanted to feel safe and just have peace and quiet, which the Hospice gave her. No machines. No noises. No half hour observations being taken. She had less anxiety, slept better, and didn’t feel pain or nausea as she feared.”

Woman in hospital bed with table full of cakes and two childrenDuring Gina’s second night at the Hospice, Michelle stopped on her way in and cleared out the local Co-op of all their cream cakes! She took 3 carrier bags full in for the staff to enjoy, and also donated 10 boxes of chocolates she had won in a Christmas raffle, along with a hamper.

Michelle says: “I told them I hope they realise when they get into bed that night, the difference they make. I know it’s their job, but that’s my mum, and to see their care and diligence is just inspirational. They made the most awful eleven days of my life that bit less awful.

“I always did mum’s personal care at home, so some days I would ask to be the second pair of hands and the staff let me do her morning freshen up, it made me feel so included and involved. I needed that, as it was how it always was with mum and I. When she passed away, I asked to complete mum’s last offices. We put music on as we washed and dressed mum. One thing that really stands out to me is how nurse Emily spoke to mum, even though she couldn’t hear her. ‘We are just going to change your nightie now, Gina.’ They were so kind. So thoughtful.

“Nurse Trudy said on the night mum passed away ‘It’s not fair is it, but she had the end she wanted. She had it exactly as she asked for.’ And she did. We take solace in that.”

Blonde woman in hospital bed with white sheets

Each year, St Barnabas cares for 12,000 people living with a life-limiting or terminal illness in its Hospice units in Lincoln and Grantham, and in people’s homes throughout the county. The charity needs to raise over £6.5 million annually to continue providing compassionate care to people like Gina, their families and friends, and every pound makes a difference.

Michelle says: “Mum’s funeral is on 17th January and before she died, she asked for no flowers and all money to be split between St Barnabas and the Waddington ward at the hospital where she spent those four long months.

“I’m also supporting St Barnabas by partaking in their recent Light up a Life appeal and donating items to The Warehouse charity shop. On top of this, I’ve joined the weekly lottery, bought scratch cards to gift to friends, and I’m planning on doing more for the Hospice going forward. I miss mum so much, but I know the last days of her life were as good as they could have been, thanks to St Barnabas.”

If you would like to make a donation to St Barnabas, please visit: https://stbarnabashospice.co.uk/donate

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