Ivor Banner
Ivor Banner

Dogged Determination Of Hospice Team Makes Dream Come True

Cancer patient Ivor Bartholomew wants to fill the last weeks of his life with special memories for the whole family, and staff at hospice charity ellenor have rallied round to make it happen.

A lifelong animal lover, Ivor has always enjoyed the greyhound racing, but feared the limitations of his illness would make one last trip to “the dogs” unfeasible. But he and his family had no idea of the doggedness, determination, and creativeness of the team at ellenor.

Everyone from the medical and wellbeing teams to the catering and transport staff pulled out all the stops to make sure Ivor and 13 other members of his family had a day out never to be forgotten!

Ivor, who was admitted to the hospice a couple of weeks ago, said: “Greyhound racing is fun -- I’ve always loved it. We used to go every year on family birthdays, or I used to go with a few of my mates. It’s a way to enjoy yourself, have a laugh and a joke.

“It was a good experience. Because of my condition and my birthday coming up, it was a case of everyone getting together. It was nice to have them all there.”

Thanks to the organisational skills of the ellenor hospice team, Ivor, who will be 56 on November 25, was able to join his family at the greyhound racing stadium, Crayford Stadium for an early birthday treat. They enjoyed some good-natured betting and banter – and gave all £220 of the money they had thrown into their collective pot to ellenor.

Sitting in a wheelchair, Ivor was taken to Crayford in an adapted car by one of ellenor’s volunteer drivers, accompanied by family support worker Terrie May and occupational therapist Claire Dudbridge.

Terrie said: “It was definitely a team effort. Claire worked on the mobility side, and I got the OK to make it happen. We did it not just for Ivor but for his whole family. It was possibly the last time they would see him – it was definitely something for all of them.”

Claire agreed: ““He had so much fun that he managed to last a staggering six hours out in his wheelchair that day, which for him was like climbing Everest!”

In the days leading up to the trip Claire spent time acclimatising Ivor to the wheelchair and finding comfortable sitting positions. Being able to use the chair also meant Ivor could visit the hospice café for tea and cake with his visitors and buy cards and flowers.

Claire said: “The whole ellenor team worked to make the special day at the races happen. Terrie liaised with the family, and we acted as escorts for the day to allow things to run smoothly. The doctors ordered special medication that could be taken off site to allow his pain to be managed. Ward nurses and health care assistants ensured he was ready early; he had all medications ready along with all paperwork needed for the day. The catering team ensured breakfast was served early so he had something to eat before he went. The admin team helped to arrange a volunteer driver, who gave up his day for us.” 

Ivor said: “Once you get to the stadium, there is a lift for wheelchairs. It takes you to a nice little room and you can sit where you want. People come out to you and ask if you want a bet and what food you would like to order.”

The family were also served birthday fairy cakes and were able to take photos of Ivor blowing out his candle. One of ellenor’s most important missions is to support patients to achieve their goals -- both physically and emotionally -- and create happy and positive memories for loved ones along the way.

Ivor’s wish list also included holding a snake and a tarantula, and the hospice team have already managed to get two snakes to his bedside – along with a bearded dragon. The tarantula is next on the agenda!

Sister-in-law Vera said: “I knew ellenor did good things, but I didn’t realise just how amazing they are. Nothing is a problem for them. Ivor is happy to be in the hospice, so we are happy for him. It’s where he wanted to be. They are very polite, and Ivor is happy and feels safe. He jokes around with them all.”

Ivor lived with his brother Ken and Vera in Dartford for 15 years before being admitted to the hospice and has become an integral part of their family life.

Vera said: “He even came on holiday with us. He also enjoyed his football and played with a Gravesend team with my son at one point. We all have such good memories of him and things we have done with him. The kids hadn’t seen him since he came to the hospice, so everyone was holding back the tears. They knew it would probably be the last time they would see him.”

Ivor was diagnosed a year ago with terminal bowel cancer, which has now spread from his liver to his back and lungs.

Vera said: “It was a shock as he was always such a healthy person. He used to do a paper ride on his bike before going to work in the office of a local delivery firm.”

Doctors at ellenor advised the team to bring forward the dog racing trip to ensure Ivor would be strong enough, and he is determined to keep enjoying the time he has left.

He said: “I’m fighting it. If it happens it happens but why be miserable over it? That’s me – happy go lucky. I love the team at ellenor -- I think they’re brilliant. When I asked, they said yes, we’ll try and do it. Terrie was up for it. Claire was up for it, and it was just a case of when we get it done. There’s more that I want to do. It’s my birthday on the 25th and I want to make a month of it. I think we can do this one day and that another day. I don’t want to be sitting about.

“I didn’t realise ellenor could do these things at first, but you are not going to get anywhere if you don’t ask. People can really get a lot from this place. It gives you a lift.”

Ivor died peacefully on IPW at the hospice with his family present. His funeral is today (13th December 2021).

Ivor's family would like to thank ellenor staff for everything that they did for Ivor. 

Ivor pictured with the snake and bearded dragon.