A Departure

I don’t usually do very personal pieces on my blog. But just this once, I’m going to do so.
My Mum died two weeks ago, in her 101st year.
Until November she’d been living independently at home, without carers, apart from some very caring cleaners and a bit of support from me. Then she had a fall, out in the street on her way to the shops. By January this year she was living in a kindly, well-run care home close to where we live.

She died suddenly, in the A&E department of our local hospital. That sounds dreadful, the bleakest and cruellest of ends after a long life.
The amazing and deeply moving thing is that it wasn’t at all. She was admitted to hospital barely conscious, and all the usual tests were done – scans, X-rays, ECGs, the lot. Then a doctor took us on one side and told us, in the gentlest way possible, that she was having a massive heart attack which she would not survive.
From that point, everything changed. They took off all the gadgets that had been fastened to her. They found her a bed in a private room in their side ward, as quiet as any room could be in a busy A&E department. They called in the palliative care team, who quietly took over her care, making sure she was as comfortable as possible. They looked after us, bringing tea and toast (we’d been woken at 4.30am and had no breakfast). They left us in peace while doing all they could, unobtrusively, to support my mother in her last hours. Her parish priest came to see her. The medical staff debated whether to return her to her familiar room in her care home, but decided, with our agreement, that she could not stand the move.
After a few hours, she died peacefully with us at her side. And their care continued afterwards, respectful, unobtrusive, sensitive to what was needed.
My mother lived the first thirty years of her life without the NHS, so she knew its value. It gave her and several members of her family many more years of life than they would otherwise have had. And at her death it gave of its very best. I can’t say more, except that I’m deeply thankful.

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10 Responses to A Departure

  1. Johanna says:

    Beautiful Helen, thank you for sharing this. Such a moving tribute to your wonderful mother who attracted goodness and kindness on account of her gift for giving the same to others

  2. Dear Helen
    I loved your post about your much loved mother. You were lucky in her and she in you. Thank you for sharing.
    Now you need to look after yourself and let her live on merrily on your mind
    Best of all wishes
    Wendy

  3. Julia Lund says:

    I’m so glad that at such an intensley intimate time you and your mum experienced such sensitivity, dignity and peace. A sad, but good end to a long life well-lived. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. darren l says:

    i am so sorry for your loss but also happy that you had a good experience with your mum and her care in hospital and that is how it should be – my wife had a completely different experience and has been lied to by medical staff had no palliative care and was lied to and is continually lied to by a major end of life charity with medical records doctored- her dad died 2 years ago in january

    • hcannam says:

      I’m so sorry you’ve had such a bad experience of the NHS. As a family, we have been fortunate to have the best care, several times over. One day I hope that will be true for everyone.

  5. Liz says:

    I read this lovely piece whilst remembering a similar experience with my own mother last year. Unlike yours, my Mam had been in and out of hospital for many months and despite all efforts, died at the age of 88. She had the best of care – from very young people who surprised me with their professionalism, knowledge, sympathy and the respect they showed a frightened and sometimes difficult old lady to the very experienced who were dedicated to making her – and us – comfortable and at peace. I have nothing but admiration for NHS staff who in my experience do their very best in very difficult circumstance often with no thanks.

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