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.