Kath Fraser and her family will be participating in our Walk in Memory event this June, remembering Kath’s mum Elaine and dad Cliff.
Here, Kath tells in her own words, how the Hospice helped her family during the most difficult of times.
When Cliff was admitted to the Highland Hospice and his wife, Elaine, was ventilated in ICU, the staff at the Hospice and Raigmore ICU did everything they could to reunite them for one last time to say goodbye.
Cliff was diagnosed unexpectedly with terminal stomach cancer in Dec 2021, only a couple of weeks after his wife, Elaine, had been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Given the advanced stage of his illness, treatment was not an option, and he was discharged home so they could spend one last Christmas together with family.
Sadly on top of everything they then both contracted COVID and Elaine’s health deteriorated rapidly over Christmas. On New Years’ Day she was admitted to Raigmore Hospital ICU and placed in an induced coma and subsequently ventilated; having suffered multiple organ failure. It was her 70th birthday whilst in ICU. Cliff’s health also deteriorated rapidly, and only a few days later he was taken into the care of the Highland Hospice.
After being brought out of a coma (for the third time), it was clear that there were no further treatment options, and Elaine along with the Hospice and ICU staff made the brave decision to transport her on a ventilator to the Hospice so she could say goodbye to her husband (of 48 years). She passed away only a few hours later by his side.
Our experience of hospice care as a family
“The image of our parents being reunited and reaching to hold one another for one last time is hard to even put into words; however the coordination, care and compassion shown by the Hospice and ICU staff in enabling them to be together at the end, is something we as a family will always be grateful for”(Kathryn & Graham)
After our Mum passed away, the hospice supported us and our Dad with the arrangements for Mums’ funeral. Despite his advanced state, it was important to Dad to know that she had been ‘laid to rest’; and the Hospice made his final wish happen. The service was led by the hospice chaplain, Norma Higgott and staff attended the service in person to support Dad (as we were not sure until the morning if he would have been physically able to attend). Close family and friends were then welcomed back at the hospice after the service which they catered for, so Dad could be included as much as possible.
We said goodbye to our Dad three weeks after Mum’s funeral. Once again the hospice was there to support us as a family; they kept close contact, and Norma Higgott lead Dad’s service having taken the time to get to know us all throughout our journey.
To lose both parents within a few weeks of one another was (and is) extremely hard; and we will always be so grateful to all the staff at the Hospice for how they cared for both our parents during the most difficult time of their lives. As well as the kindness they showed to us as a family (they really did go above and beyond).
However, it is important to note that looking back we also have some positive moments to think back on; in particular when the Hospice agreed to us bringing in Dad’s motorbike (his pride and joy) into his bedroom and seeing Dad smile as he encouraged the staff to ‘sit on it, and rev the engine’ (that made some noise!). As well as simple things, like the staffsticking the grandchildren’s pictures on the wall to decorate his room, and sneaking them ice cream so they could have memories of ‘eating lollies sat on Grandad’s bed’. It is these memories, alongside knowing our parents’ wishes were heard and honoured at the end of both their lives that has helped.