Garys Story Website Banner
Garys Story Website Banner

Son thanks hospice charity for its “superb” all-round support

The past few years have been a struggle for Gary Webb and his family. First Gary’s brother died suddenly and unexpectedly from an undiagnosed heart condition and then his father was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Without ellenor at their side, he doesn’t know how they would have coped.

During the Webb family journey, we were able to provide care from its Adult Hospice@Home team and later its clinical team on the hospice ward. Chaplain Ben proved a great support to Gary and his mum Doreen was also able to access counselling sessions through our Wellbeing team.

Gary said: “I just don’t know how we would have coped without ellenor. The level of care was just second to none. They kept Dad involved at all times and were completely honest and open. The nurses who came out to us when dad was at home and the care that he received in the hospice were all phenomenal.

“The nurse who was with my mum and dad when he died was so lovely and caring – that’s how it was all the way through. It wasn’t just the nurses; it was the lady in the café, who went above and beyond to make sure we were looked after, it was the people doing the cleaning and the garden – everyone had time for us.”

The Webb family have had many hurdles to overcome in recent years, starting with the death of Gary’s niece from a heart condition when she was just three and a half years old.

He said: “She was such an amazing little girl with an amazing attitude and her death had a big effect on the whole family.”

Then Gary’s father Raymond was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2019.

Gary said: “We thought it was terminal and we held a celebration of his life that December, then in the February we got the astonishing news the cancer was undetectable. Sadly, things fell apart after that. The pandemic hit and then my brother Darren passed away suddenly. It had a massive effect on all of us, particularly my sister-in-law and the children. Then Dad’s diagnosis came back.

“We were dealing with the pandemic and the loss of my brother and not being able to go to his funeral. It was an awful and stressful time. Of course, my parents were shielding but I went to the cremation. I was only allowed to sit on the bank overlooking the crematorium.”

Gary’s parents were living in Lenham when his dad first received his cancer diagnosis. He was having chemotherapy, but his treatment was put on hold when he succumbed to covid. 

Gary said: “Mum is registered disabled, and dad wanted to move somewhere where she would be safe. It was beautiful where they lived, but remote. They had family in Swanley, and I live in South London. It made sense to move there, so they got an assisted living place in December 2021.”

The ellenor team worked with Social Services and the Heart of Kent Hospice, where Raymond was originally receiving support, to transfer Raymond’s care.

Gary said: “The transfer was seamless, but sadly things started to deteriorate pretty rapidly once they had moved and that’s when our relationship with ellenor really took off.”

The charity’s nursing team started to visit Raymond and his wife Doreen in their new home. As Raymond’s condition deteriorated, the family learned how to administer his morphine, with the help of the ellenor nurses.

Gary said: “The nurses were brilliant; very caring and personal. If there were any problems or it felt like things weren’t working, we would just call them, and they would get back to us as soon as they could. Mum was doing most of the care with the help of carers provided by West Kent Housing as part of their assisted living. We were determined we would look after dad as a family. I would spend a lot of time in the guest room provided there, or on the floor of their flat. My uncles were helping out too but, in the end, it became very stressful and difficult.”

At this point the ellenor nurses gently persuaded Gary and his mum that Raymond would be more comfortable at the charity’s hospice in Northfleet. They also explained to Raymond how the move would benefit him and the family as a whole.

Gary said: “It was hard because my dad was such a proud man and my parents had been together for 50 years. We thought the move to the hospice would just be for respite, but the nurses were brilliant at explaining it was beyond respite and that he needed full-time hospice care.”

Gary and his mother were able to visit Raymond as much as Covid regulations allowed, and Gary, who works for a Japanese bank, even worked remotely from the hospice building in Northfleet. Although Raymond was no longer under the care of the Hospice@Home team, they kept in touch and visited regularly, working hand in hand with the clinical team on the hospice ward.

Raymond was in the hospice for just over a week before he died in March this year at the age of 82. He received specialist palliative care while his family were receiving emotional support and were relieved of the everyday caring tasks, able to spend quality time with Raymond during his final days.

During his dad’s time at the hospice, Gary struck up a rapport with Chaplain Ben, and it was Ben who conducted the funeral when the time came.

Gary said: “Dad wasn’t massively religious, and I have my own beliefs. We wanted a couple of prayers but not a full-on religious ceremony. Ben was brilliant and did it exactly how we wanted it – it was the perfect mix. He still keeps in touch now with me and my mum and asks how we are. He’s been great; very professional and compassionate.

“On a personal level I knew a little bit about ellenor but only from my previous work with The Samaritans, and of course I had seen the ellenor shop in Dartford. Before all of this, if you had asked me what hospice care was, I would have talked about doctors and nurses but at ellenor it’s an all-round package. At one of the most horrific times, it wasn’t a horrific experience. When it came to it, ellenor made a massive difference to dad’s end of life because he got the care he needed. It was superb, and I can’t thank ellenor enough.”