A member of our Living Well Centre Team has first-hand experience of the care and support the hospice provides after it helped her family through some of the most difficult times of their lives.
Kate Miley, a Healthcare Assistant, wanted her husband Kevin to be cared for by the hospice when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer two years ago, during the Covid pandemic. He died after a short illness.
The couple had been together for 28 years and have three children. As a devoted family man, Kevin was determined to be cared for at home as much as possible, which he was able to do with the support of the hospice.
Kate said: “Kev was a larger-than-life character. He was a painter and decorator, and he was amazing at drawing; he used to do murals in nurseries, things like that. He loved martial arts. Most of all, he was very family-oriented.
“During Covid, he was losing a bit of weight which we put down to poor control of his diabetes at first. All of a sudden, he started feeling quite sick every few nights and he developed a cough. One Sunday morning we’d been up all night so I took him to A&E with a list of symptoms but he was sent home without any assessments, and because a cough was one of the symptoms, he was considered to be a Covid risk.
“We got in touch with our GP and I pushed for him to be seen because I knew something wasn’t right. Within 48 hours, we’d found out that he had terminal cancer and he only had months to live. I asked for a referral to the hospice immediately which my husband wanted as well. There was no hesitation on my side or his because I knew we needed that care.”
The diagnosis took place in December 2020, and the medical team at the hospice were able to help Kevin to manage his symptoms, working through different options to make him as comfortable as possible, and while he did require a short stay on the Inpatient Unit, this largely took place in his own home.
Kate added: “The main problem for my husband was symptom control, and the doctors were constantly trying different things – nothing was too much trouble. We also had the hospice’s Community Nurses visit regularly. The support for the whole family was absolutely incredible, and for me, a big part of that was because they were all people who understood.
“Even though we were in the middle of the pandemic, I don’t think the support we received was any different to if we hadn’t been in lockdown. It was incredible and I couldn’t have done it without them. Kev’s aim was to be at home as much as possible and to die at home with his family around him, and we were really privileged that we could do that.”
The hospice even helped to arrange for Kevin to be baptised, which was not straightforward during the pandemic. Kevin died on 28 February 2021 and, despite lockdown funeral restrictions, his local community were able to come together to pay tribute to him on the day.
Kate said: “We had to get permission from the Bishop of Birmingham to let us go into a church. There was me, Kev and our three children and we were able to get him baptised, which was what he wanted, so that was incredible to be able to do that.
“On his funeral day, because we could only have 30 people there, three roads around our house were lined with people. His funeral was on the National Covid Day so we released 100 balloons in memory of everyone who had died. The roads were just full – I was shocked with the amount of people who turned up. They brought his work van and that led the procession, so we were able to do things for him, even though there was a lockdown.”
Kate has worked at Birmingham Hospice for five years, having previously spent 18 years at the QE Hospital and 12 years as a dental nurse. She feels that her experiences have given her an even better understanding of what the situations our patients face and wants to use that knowledge to help others.
She said: “I want to be able to use my experience to support patients and families here. Having been through it, I feel I’ve got a better understanding of what people are going through and the kind of crisis situation you feel you’re in a lot of the time.
“I came back to work about eight weeks after Kev died and the team here have just been amazing, and they got me through it if I’m honest.
“My role involves assessing patients and supporting them through their journey. They usually come to us quite early in their journey so we support them with difficult discussions and managing their symptoms, but we also have a lot of fun.
“I always knew I wanted to end my career in palliative care. I enjoy everything about my role – I’ve never once woken up and thought I didn’t want to come to work. I don’t think of what I do as a job; I consider it a privilege to be here.”
• Thank you for sharing your story with us Kate.
• If you would like to share your story of how the hospice helped you or your family, please email email@example.com.