“It’s like Shipston Home Nursing wrapped a blanket around our family in the very darkest of days,” said Jo Carroll, whose mother Sue passed away in August – in a year she describes as their own ‘annus horribilis.’
Jo and her friends and family have since raised more than £7,500 to give back to the charity which she says acted as her ‘guardian angel.’
Sue was a very active and healthy 78-year-old until she fell ill in April last year, eventually being diagnosed with multiple cancers (brain, bowel, liver and lung). She was sent home from Warwick Hospital, with the news that she had “days – at best weeks” – left. Her cancer was so advanced palliative care was the only option.
Jo, who runs Winchcombe Farm in Upper Tysoe with husband Steve Taylor, said: “We were in complete shock. It’s difficult to recall the feeling of utter devastation and the helplessness of not knowing what to do and where to go for help. We all knew what the final outcome was going to be but had no idea of how we would survive the journey.”
It was the latest bitter blow in a what has been a challenging year for the family. In the same month as Sue’s diagnosis, they began grieving the loss of Steve’s 86-year-old mother, Liz, following her 12-month battle with lung cancer.
Backdrop to their grief was the family being forced to spend most of the year living in temporary accommodation after a fire ravaged their home in January. Steve collapsed while trying to contain the blaze and suffered a cardiac arrest.
The family finally moved back home in September a few months after Steve underwent a triple heart bypass.
It was at the suggestion of a friend that Jo, 52, contacted Shipston Home Nursing to help care for her mother.
She explained: “The nurses and carers team became our ‘guardian angels,’ helping us every step of the way, and I sincerely believe that we wouldn’t have survived this period without them.
“As expected, Mum deteriorated very quickly and our biggest problem became night times – She was very restless, couldn’t sleep and became very confused as the brain cancer and seizures got worse. She couldn’t be left alone. Medication failed to help and we very quickly discovered that even with three of us – Dad, my sister and myself – providing 24-hour care was almost impossible.
“It was peak season running the holiday lodges so it was impossible just to stop working. I also have young children, one of whom is severely autistic, so already have extensive carer responsibilities.
“We tried almost 20 care agencies trying to find a waking carer, but to no avail. Shipston Home Nursing stepped in to help us, providing a carer from 10pm to 7am every night they were able.
“This made the most enormous difference to us – the world is a much better place when you can have a good night’s sleep and at least you feel like you can cope with whatever the next day will throw at you, when you’ve had some rest.”
Shipston Home Nursing, which last year marked its 25th anniversary, offers day and night care for patients which is provided free-of-charge to the user, funded by charity donations. This provides a lifeline to many families who are navigating their way, dealing with a terminally ill relative at home.
Jo added: “They are amazing people – for all that they do and the difference that they make. Their person-centred approach ensures a seamless service but it’s not just about the care, it’s the people working for Shipston Home Nursing who are pouring their hearts and souls into their job.”
The Carroll family has set themselves a fundraising target of £10,000 to say thank you to Shipston Home Nursing and make sure that other local families can have the same support they received.
Sue’s seven-year-old grandson, Bob, himself recently raised £235 by charging people to sign his plaster cast after breaking his ankle. He said: “I’m really pleased that I’ve raised such a lot of money for the people that helped my Nanny. My mum and dad are very proud of me and I’ve been very brave, because it hurt a lot.”
Jo added: “Shipston Home Nursing walk alongside many families dealing with terminally ill and can only do that with the continued support of the local community and businesses.
“A good deed brightens a dark world and we can’t pay back kindness, but we can pass it on. We pledge to do all that we can to help Shipston Home Nursing continue their invaluable work for local families like ours, who make a difference that is immeasurable in words. For that, we shall be forever grateful”.
Kate Bamford, spokesperson for Shipston Home Nursing, said: “We are enormously grateful to Sue’s family for sharing their story. In doing so, they help us to raise awareness of Shipston Home Nursing. We offer free home nursing to people with life-limiting illnesses in Shipston, Wellesbourne, Kineton and surrounding villages and it’s so important for us to let those who need us know that we are here.
“Our thanks go to Jo, Steve and the rest of the family for their kind words and their ongoing support. And, of course, to Bob – one of Shipston Home Nursing’s youngest fundraisers!”
To donate visit: https://www.shipstonhomenursing.co.uk/donate/