My name is Teresa and I’ve been a nurse here at St Barnabas for 12 years. My job is hugely rewarding – even though it’s
become so much harder since COVID-19 arrived. Out in the community, caring in people’s own homes, you get to know people really well. I like to hear their stories, to let them know I have time and that when they want to talk to me, I will listen. It gives people the confidence to know we care. That’s so important – because people are not defined by their illness.
One thing we nurses hear from families all the time is, “You’re amazing – we could not have done this without you!” Or, “You don’t know what a relief your visit is; now I don’t feel so alone.” I’ve heard that so many times over the years – and I’ve always accepted it gratefully. But I also know how absolutely true it is – because when the nurses, my colleagues, looked after my dad a couple of years ago, they lifted a massive weight off my shoulders.
Dad was a very private man, proud and independent man – not keen on talking. He was an exparatrooper and he would always rather do things for himself and struggle than have someone’s help. So, when he messaged me and said, “I’m struggling a bit, duck” I popped straight down to see him. And then he said, “I don’t think I can manage.” That’s when I knew I needed to do something; so I referred him to the hospice.
He had an amazing summer with ‘the girls’ – my wonderful nursing colleagues. For six weeks they went in to support him with his personal care, to monitor his breathing and to give him the opportunity to talk about things that he wouldn’t speak with myself about. I used to go get his paper for him each day – but when the other nurses came in, he’d ring me and say ‘Ah, I don’t need you today!’. He was in control of how often they would visit, he regained his independence and confidence, his breathing improved, and he decided that he no longer needed any support from hospice at home. He went on to have a wonderful summer. Until one day in September when he became unwell and was admitted to hospital.
Over the weeks his lung function continued to deteriorate; in the end, he needed full time, specialist care. He went into the Hospice in the Hospital. The staff in the unit were amazing with my Dad, myself and my family. They were so kind, caring and looked after us all so well. I slept on a bed next to my Dad in his room and they supported me to care for my Dad in his final days.
I’m a trained nurse with years of experience but those final weeks with Dad were mentally and emotionally exhausting, even with St Barnabas to help me. I always knew that looking after someone who was dying was hard work. I always knew that your heart breaks and it’s so painful. But I don’t think you can really know until you experience it. Now I feel I have a much deeper insight into how hard it is – and how this past year has been even more difficult for so many families.
There are some people I’m seeing now who haven’t been out since March. The social isolation has had a massive impact on people with health issues – and their families as well. I always try to allow more time to talk to people now – whether they want me to visit (in all my PPE) or just on a call.
Today, we’ve come a long way since the early days of the pandemic – when we could only do the most essential visits. But it’s still so hard; many more people than ever are asking for our help. I hope, if you can, you’ll help me and my colleagues to keep caring for local families, helping to lift the weight off their shoulders when it really matters. Your support is a lifeline to so many folks; and our care – and compassion in this dire time – is absolutely crucial.
If you would like to donate to support terminally ill people in your community, bringing vital care and support to them while we wait for the pandemic to end, please visit StBarnabasHospice.co.uk/donate