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A Difficult, Heart-Warming Experience

Here’s a difficult, yet heart-warming story from four ART Butterfly Volunteers put together by Co-Ordinator Lead, Jo Corscaden.

This account documents ART Butterfly Volunteer visits to a patient who has been identified as nearing the end of his life. Each entry is written by a different volunteer –  the story highlights the teamwork and understanding of each member of our team.

Day One  – Morning – 2hrs 5mins

The patient was on his own when I arrived; I sat quietly and then read a little. His wife arrived after about 45 minutes. He was being transferred the nursing team were not sure if he was going to Gibberd Ward or to Epping Hospital which is closer to home. The ward clerk confirmed that the transfer to Epping Hospital was delayed. The patient’s wife transferred with him and I met them on Gibberd Ward with tea and biscuits. I stayed chatting with the patient’s wife and she asked if she could transfer to Epping with him, when it was time. I asked the ward clerk to arrange this. I got some water for Peter to moisten his lips with. I stayed until his wife had eaten some lunch, and made sure she was comfortable and had everything she needed.

Day Two – Morning – 1hr 30 mins

Peter’s breathing was slightly laboured and I noticed that his lips looked dry, so I went and asked a nurse for some Vaseline and moistened his lips. I noticed every now and then his face would grimace as if in pain so I reported this to the nurse in charge. A doctor came in and asked how he was so I related my observations. The room felt stuffy so I opened the window a little and the sound of birds chirping came into the room. Peter did not like to be touched but I offered words of comfort. There were cards from the family stuck up on the wall which I spoke to him about.

Day Three – Afternoon – 1hr 15mins

I sat with Peter; I had been told that he didn’t like to be touched so I spoke to him at regular intervals of silence. I spoke with him about the weather, the birds singing and the light breeze coming through the window.
Peter seemed restful, his breathing didn’t appear laboured. I thanked him for letting me sit with him, said goodbye and left.

Day Four – Afternoon – 2hrs 30 mins

Peter’s breathing changed, there were longer gaps, getting progressively more shallow and this continued to change. I believed his passing would come in the next hour or so. I informed a nurse who tried to contact his wife.

Peter was very relaxed, his breathing changed again when I encouraged him to relax, told him all was well, even though he was seemingly unconscious. I sat with Peter for an hour, I had been told he did not like to be touched, but I felt he benefited from someone being with him. Peter continued to be relaxed, I spoke sometimes, I could see a very slow & steady progress towards his passing. I read Peter’s cards to him and I told him that his wife had written “ I will always love you” in his card. A doctor called in, and I let him know how he was doing.

Shortly after this Peter died. I sat with him after he died for a few moments, then I informed a nurse. I continued to sit with Peter until a nurse came to check that he had died. She asked all about the ART Butterfly Volunteers and was touched by what we do. She told me she finds it so difficult when she could not spend time with patients and their families.

Soon after Peter had died his wife arrived with their dog. She called her son and told me she would like to stay a while. The hospital Chaplain arrived soon after her. I was able to assure his wife that Peter’s death had been very gentle. She had brought in a CD player and some CD’s, I put this on for them both, she agreed she would like that.

I said goodbye and left the Chaplain with Peter and his wife.

To support our ongoing cause, providing compassionate care at the end of life, please visit our donation page here.


Jo qualified as a Registered General Nurse in 1990 at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. She qualified as a Registered Midwife in 1994, and later as a Soul Midwife (spiritual companion to the dying). Jo has had many roles in and around healthcare during her working life, and in the last two years has worked as a Complimentary Therapist at Isabel Hospice, and a Butterfly Volunteer at East & North Herts NHS Trust.


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