Last month my mum passed away at St Ann’s Hospice in Little Hulton, North Manchester. It might seem like a bit of an odd thing for me to feature St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton on My Hidden Gems. But the purpose of my blog is to uncover all sorts of hidden gems and St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton is exactly that. For me and my family it was a godsend. I don’t know how my brother and I could have coped without it. This year I won’t be able to give my mum a present for Mother’s Day. So, in memory of my mum, I wanted to share my experiences of St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton in the hope it will help others and give them strength too.
Before a couple of months ago I didn’t even know of the existence of St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton. In fact, I didn’t even really know what a hospice is, or does. Then, out of the blue, my mum was diagnosed with being in the final stages of gallbladder cancer. It had already spread to mum’s spine and liver and there was no cure but we were told chemo may be possible to help prolong mum’s life.
My mum was admitted to North Manchester General Hospital where she was treated appallingly. At the point where they had allowed my mum to deteriorate so badly the hospital planned to send her home with no care plan in place. I was distraught. I knew I wasn’t in a position to be able to look after my mum and give her the care she needed to hopefully get her well enough to be able to have chemo.
I decided to do some research into alternative care options for people with cancer. Surely there were special homes designed to deal with people in similar situations given the number of people affected by cancer? I was gobsmacked to learn there aren’t. My only real choice would be to admit my mum into a nursing home, where the majority of patients were much older (my mum was 65), and suffering with types of dementia. I wasn’t about to let this happen.
There was the option of home carers, Macmillan nurses coming to my mum’s house. Macmillan Cancer Support do an incredible job. But their visits are during the daytime, which means at night I would have to look after my mum alone. And because my mum was so weak I couldn’t see how this was a workable solution to help get her strength back.
Then I came across hospices. My mum’s best friend told me she knew someone who had been in St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton, Manchester, and raved about how amazing it was. I’d (incorrectly) assumed that a hospice is somewhere people go to for end of life care. This, I discovered, isn’t the case. A hospice is also a place people with life-limiting illnesses can go to for palliative care. Hospices offer rehabilitation and respite care to try and make people’s lives as comfortable as possible, helping them to manage their condition. It was exactly the type of place we needed for my mum.
There was just one snag. To get into a hospice there is a waiting list list (and you need to be referred by a hospital). I was fortunate we managed to secure my mum a place in St Ann’s Hospice in Little Hulton in North Manchester, not far from Bolton. What’s incredible about St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton is that it’s not means tested, and it’s free. St Ann’s Hospice works on the premise that everyone is equal and should be treated the same no matter how much, or how little, money you have. This applies to all of the St Ann’s Hospice sites – there are three in total, St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton, St Ann’s Hospice Heald Green and St Ann’s Hospice Neil Cliffe Centre, Wythenshaw – and other hospices too.
We honestly didn’t know what to expect from St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton. My mum was in one of the ward rooms in the inpatients unit, each had three beds. Everyone was upbeat, nothing too much trouble. It was a far cry from the sterile atmosphere of the hospital. There were also some private rooms as well as a large, airy lounge with a TV, sofas and dining table, various little sitting rooms and a large reception area with a coffee shop (run by volunteers) and a chapel. On the other side of the building was the area for day patients where people could take part in various activities including arts and crafts.
Apart from the medical staff providing specialised round-the-clock treatment – doctors, nurses, physios, social workers – St Ann’s Hospice is manned by an amazingly selfless team of volunteers. They do everything from take round the drinks trolley (patients are even offered alcoholic drinks) to providing aromatherapy and reflexology treatments. There’s also a hairdresser who comes round to do patient’s hair and meals are freshly prepared by the cook who visits patients to ask them what they fancy to eat that day.
It’s not just the patients that St Ann’s Hospice looks after, the welfare of family and carers is also paramount. The staff are on hand to offer both emotional and practical advice and guidance on how to cope, or just give an ear to listen to allowing you the chance to talk about your worries and concerns.
Sadly we thought mum’s stay would be a stepping stone in her treatment. This wasn’t to be the case. But my brother and I are forever grateful that my mum died comfortably, she wasn’t in pain, and had peace of mind. This wouldn’t have been possible without the kindness and compassion of the staff at St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton. When the time came, one of the nurses even stayed with my mum at the moment she passed away, so she wasn’t alone. They allowed my mum to keep her dignity and for this my family and I can never repay them.
I was shocked to learn that to stay open St Ann’s Hospice needs £16,000 a day. The government only funds 30% of the cost for this unbelievable facility. I was also surprised to see that although there is a waiting list the hospice had empty beds, because it can’t afford to fill them. St Ann’s Hospice may be Greater Manchester’s largest hospice but it still relies on much-needed donations for it to be able to keep running. Whether you pop into one of the St Ann’s Hospice charity shops, take part in one of St Ann’s Hospice’s events, make a donation to St Ann’s Hospice, buy a St Ann’s Hospice lottery ticket (you could win the weekly prize of £2,000) or volunteer your time. You never know if unfortunately one day you might be in need of this hidden gem. I hope you never will. But if even one person is helped by knowing about St Ann’s Hospice Little Hulton, and other hospices like it, I’m sure it would make my mum very happy. And that’s the most any daughter could wish for on Mother’s Day.