Yvonne Web Banner Trevors Story
Yvonne Web Banner Trevors Story

Trevor’s Story: How Care at Home and in the Hospice Ensured His Wife Yvonne Died with Dignity

Gravesend couple Trevor and Yvonne Gilchrist were always inseparable.

Even on Trevor’s long, solitary nights working as a security guard, he’d have a constant companion. Yvonne, calling him, asking how he was doing. 

“She’d worry about me,” Trevor smiles, recalling the memories fondly. “One night, when I was working late, I found it odd that she hadn’t called me. Then, headlights showed up outside the building I was stationed at – it was Yvonne! It was then I realised she’d been trying to call me all night,” he chuckles. “I didn’t know it, but my phone was on silent!”

This sort of anecdote is typical of the two’s relationship. Married for 37 years – ever since Yvonne wandered into the hotel Trevor worked in 1985, then sent him her phone number in a letter days later – they had the kind of comfort and chemistry only the longest partnerships can claim. They were always joking – Trevor, in particular, is fond of the practical variety – and always up and about. Active, excited, and on the go.

But in September 2021, tragedy struck. 

Yvonne was diagnosed with cancer of the vulva. The prognosis was poor. Soon after, she had a stroke, and her condition – along with haemorrhaging, and the pain it wrought on her body – meant she was in and out of Darent Valley Hospital.

Trevor stopped working to help care for Yvonne full time, from home. He moved his bed downstairs to sleep next to her, and helped bathe and dress her.

Trevor loved Yvonne more than anything in the world. But he’s 73, and a security guard – not a carer – by trade. So when ellenor’s Adult Hospice at Home Care team stepped in to provide palliative care for Yvonne – from the Gilchrists’ own home – it meant the world.

The bond that Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist Linda, Dani, and “the two Tinas” (as Trevor affectionately calls them) formed with Yvonne was instant and intense. Soon, the ellenor quartet were part of the fixtures and fittings of Trevor and Yvonne’s Gravesend home.

They helped Yvonne manage the excruciating pain of her condition – controlling her symptoms to help restore some of her quality of life. And because Trevor, unwilling to leave his wife for extended periods, didn’t want to go out to pick up her prescriptions, ellenor’s team did. So they didn’t only administer these strong pain-killing medications – such as morphine – but procure them, too.

Linda’s team also supported Trevor. With empathy and compassion, they helped him process the negative emotions – grief, guilt, worry, fear – and understand his role in Yvonne’s care.

“They’d come and talk to her,” says Trevor, “to make sure she was alright – to make sure I was alright. Anything we needed, Linda would ring up and get it.”

But as spring gave way to summer and the air began to get warmer, Yvonne’s condition deteriorated. And, after many conversations – and the full consent of both Yvonne and Trevor – the decision was made to move her to ellenor’s inpatient unit (IPU) in nearby Northfleet.

There, she could receive round-the-clock supervision and medical attention from ellenor’s in-house doctors and nurses.

Linda and her team of Healthcare Assistants helped with the transition. And, on 4 July 2022, Yvonne entered ellenor.

Sadly, it was to be the start of the last week of her life. She passed away, peacefully, at 5am on 11 July 2022 – a mere 13 days before her 80th birthday.

“It was a Monday morning when I got the call. Yvonne had gone. I couldn’t stop shaking. When I went to see her, ellenor were so considerate. They’d placed a little red heart beside her, and done her up in a ponytail and plaits. 

“I’d never seen her look so peaceful.”

Now, Trevor faces his first Christmas without Yvonne in close to four decades. But he does have one source of companionship he didn’t this time last year – ellenor. Trevor pays regularly visits to ellenor’s Coldharbour Road-based hospice. Sometimes for a quick hello, sometimes for coffee and cake – sometimes simply to sit for an hour or two, and reflect.

“ellenor means so much to me. They’ve been so helpful – first in caring for Yvonne, and in ensuring her death was peaceful and dignified. And, now that she’s gone, they’re there for me still. I know that if I need to come up and talk to the team, I can. It’s like one big family.

“When you go up to ellenor, you couldn’t get a better welcome. And once you get up there and start talking to the team, you feel a lot better.

Trevor has lost his life partner, fellow practical joker, and the woman he planned to continue growing old alongside. But there is solace – in both the treatment Yvonne received in the final days and weeks of her life, and in the range of services ellenor provides – free of charge – for bereaved family members. (Such as counselling, and the Bereavement Cuppa group.)

For anyone facing similar circumstances, Trevor’s words of advice are simple and compelling.

“If you’ve lost a loved one, and you’re grieving – when you feel you have no hope, or that nobody cares – the ellenor team are there for you. Always. Get it off your chest. Don’t suffer. Head up to ellenor. You’re always welcome; there’s always someone there to talk to.”

And his recommendation, as the festive season fast approaches? Get involved.

“To all the people out there who have lost partners, I urge you: support ellenor. Fundraise for them, or take part in one of their events: such as the Twilight Walk, Lights of Love, or ellenor’s monthly quiz nights. Please, dig deep – and do whatever you can to raise money or awareness for ellenor’s amazing cause this Christmas.

“ellenor does so much for the Kent and Bexley communities. I think we’d be lost without them.”