If you are wondering why the team at ART are so passionate about providing compassionate care to hospital patients in the last days and hours of their life, read on.
Below is some of the visit feedback from the fantastic team of ART Butterfly Volunteers at The Princess Alexandra Hospital Harlow. These stories speak for themselves… (names, genders and some personal information may have been changed to protect patient/family confidentiality)
A nurse was leaving Lucy’s room as I arrived. I checked with him that it was ok to visit her, and he confirmed it was, but that Lucy was unresponsive. She looked to me to be in her early 80’s. I could see she was close to passing. I introduced myself, saying that I would stay with her for a while, encouraging her to relax and talking gently. There were 2 pictures of Lucy and her family by the bed, and a bible was on the bedside cabinet. I gently held her hand, talked about the pictures and let her know that she was doing well. Lucy opened her eyes and looked at me, and we held eye contact for a minute or so. Her breathing changed. I assured her I would stay with her.
Lucy died about fifteen minutes later.
I sat quietly to give her a few moments. Then I informed the staff at the nursing station. I stayed with Lucy for a further ten minutes until a doctor came in to do his checks. The nurses were surprised that Lucy has died so quickly. They were unsure when the family would arrive, so I wrote a brief note to them on one of our leaflets. I wanted them to know that Lucy had had a very peaceful death, and that she hadn’t been alone. JA
Jack was awake, so I asked if I could sit with him which he accepted with a smile. I took his hand and gently touched his arm as he said he was in a lot of pain. He was in and out of sleep. I gently stroked his hair and we talked about when he was a little boy and visited the market with his mother, what a lovely man. When I left I asked his nurse to make sure he had enough pain relief, said goodbye to Jack and assured him another volunteer would be visiting soon. KB
I noticed that Peter seemed to have got colder and ‘more grey’ since I arrived so I informed nursing staff. I also asked if they could check his syringe driver, which they did promptly. I was offered a cup of tea by domestic staff, which was very welcome. AL
When I arrived, Jane’s husband and two brothers were there. Her husband was going to have a shower as he and her sister had stayed all night. They were very keen to have some support and to talk. We chatted and I showed them how to do gentle touch massage and gave each of them, including Jane, a short massage. A Palliative Care nurse came in to see how she was. I got a car parking form and took it to security for the family as they had been paying for parking every day. Jane suddenly showed extreme pain whilst her husband and I were there, so I went to get a nurse who gave her more medication and the PC nurse came in again. We moistened her lips gently, and I went to get a cup of tea for her husband. We put some tea on a sponge for Jane as its her favourite drink. When lunch arrived, I left her sister and her husband with Jane, whose breathing had become more shallow. Her family were very complimentary of all the staff, and of the support they had received from the ART Butterfly Volunteers. CP
I introduced myself to Donald and received a lovely smile. I sat down next to him and he pushed his hand towards me. I placed my hand in his and he gave it a nice big squeeze. I spoke gently to him throughout the visit and he smiled a lot. As I was leaving, I asked him to give my hand one more squeeze, which he did. I hugged him and left. DJ
Mary was very settled, breathing very slowly. I explained who I was, her eyes moved slightly in recognition. I spoke to Mary in a relaxing way, telling her she was not alone. I gently stroked her hand and hair, and she seemed to relax a little. Nurses told me it was lovely to have the ART Butterfly Volunteers around. Every 5 or so minutes Mary tried to open her eyes to focus more on me. I continued to stroke her hair as this seemed to relax her. I asked a nurse to reposition her as she had slipped down the bed and seemed uncomfortable. I wiped her eye as it was watering. I left Mary, thanking her and explaining that someone else would be coming to sit with her very soon. JA
We are now urgently seeking funds to enable us to expand the ART Butterfly Volunteer scheme to support as many patients at the end of life, their families and NHS staff who care for them as we can. Please click on this link and donate today.