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Dear St Christophers…

An open letter to all at St Christophers Hospice in Sydenham.

For as far back as I can remember, way back into the early years of my childhood, the name St Christophers has been regular to conversations and teachings from my mother. Constantly singing praises of the work done there, and pointing out when we passed on the bus that although hospital signs were near by, this was no ordinary hospital, but rather an extraordinary place.

As the years went on, and I started driving I began to understand what actually happened within the walls of St Christophers, and heard more and more about how amazing the people who worked in there more. Seeing the name appear in more and more places, charity drives, local newspaper articles etc. Then when I met Donna when I was about 24-25, and heard her mum worked there (Barbara Sage) I looked into it a little more and was blown away at what they did there. Once again though, I was still too far back from there to realise just HOW amazing it was.

Then back in 2008 mum was diagnosed with cancer and my life changed forever. For 2 and a half years I worked hard making sure mum had everything she needed, and tried everything I could to keep her smiling, not believing that there was anyone out there capable of helping her the way I could. How wrong would I turn out to be! By the end of 2010 mum had reached the stage where her condition was taking a turn for the worse. Being diagnosed with brain cancer she went onto steroids. At the same time St Christophers became involved, making home visits and arranging counselling for the family. Building trust with the home care team she started to feel more confident in the idea of help, and as time went on her first admission for respite occurred. Finally I was walking into the working end of the real St Christophers. Having previously seen the Anniversary suite, and being impressed by its facilities etc, I was blown away when we went to the first ward. Wow!
It was like a hospital tucked away down a side road. But there was more to come.

Even on the first night came, mum was feeling comfortable and safe for the first time in a long time. As the days went on, it was apparent that the level of care and compassion she would receive would be nothing less than that from an extended close and loving family. Bonds built overnight. Banter flowed, while the personal knowledge of each patient that each tier of staff had was mindblowing.

In total mum had 3 stays in St Christophers. Towards the end it became a place off comfort and solace for her. While she always said being at home was her wish, her stress levels would disappear each time an ambulance came for her to take her back to the hospice. Health would generally improve or at least stabilise.

Getting to know the staff pretty well, it was always an emotional goodbye when we left, for mum and me I have to say. Dreading how I would cope without these amazing people behind me, but always knowing help was never too far away.
Mums last stay was a little emotional for her, as the allowance for respite breaks was coming to an end, and there was little that could be done for mum as she was neither improving, nor end of life. So when the social team arranged a meeting with me, my sister and mum to talk about the next step, homes, mum was somewhat angry about it all, or should I say a little afraid of what to expect.
A home was found, and mums last stay at St Christophers came to an end. With a loving goodbye we moved onto Westwood House.

Sadly mum passed almost 2 weeks later, but in privacy, with dignity, and in no pain, so it was what she always wanted.

It is a month to the day that mum died, and the dust has settled now, so I thought I would make this entry to just simply say.

St Christophers and all your staff, not forgetting your volunteers, contributors, sponsors and anyone else I have missed out... You are all amazing selfless people who made the 9 months of mums life happy, enjoyable and incredible. So from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU all. I will forever be in your debt, and will always give back in anyway I can. I can honestly pass my mothers thanks and love to each and every one of you, and indeed my love too, for making those dark days a little brighter.

Thank you all, and much love.

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