10th October 2017

Paul’s first day at St Richard’s

It seemed to be such a turning point for me that first time at day hospice.

My nurse had mentioned the ‘h’ word and I recoiled at the very thought of me going to a hospice. It was a negative emotional response based upon nothing other than assumption and imagination rather than experience or fact.

Very soon the manager and a physiotherapist came from the hospice for an assessment at my home, they were positive and cheerful about it all while I was still dubious.

That first day passed quickly and was emotionally exhausting. The hospice volunteers arrived with the minibus at home and I realised that I was a hospice patient, terminally ill, with carers, volunteers, nurses and so on, all flooding my life before I was ready.

But when will any of us be ready for that time? That time when our own mortality shocks the rhythm of what was our ‘normal’ into a different, yet shorter ‘normal’.

The journey away from home was actually towards a better wellbeing, I just didn’t know that yet.

As we arrived in the car park I felt a mixed bag of dread, doubt, nausea and excited expectancy. Descending the wheelchair lift I was ashamed at my own nervousness. I love meeting new people, new experiences are fine too, but going into a hospice; me!

I wanted…what did I want? To be away from here, to be well again, to be dealing with this better. All unrealistic. I had to show some grit, put on a smile and get on with it, for my wife’s sake I just had to get on with it. I drove forward into reception in my wheelchair.

And that’s another thing! One year I’m driving a new car, I’m working, I’m walking and generally just ‘doing’. The next I’m not able, I’m ill, in a wheelchair. I’m in a hospice for goodness sake.

God, I just bet you it’s all tartan slippers and crusty sandwiches. Loud television in the corner and dribbling patients sat in a circle staring into the past. It will smell of you know what, and I will not like it, I will not like it at all.  But I will put up with it for my darling wife, to give her a day off from me.

From the welcome until the farewell it was not as I had feared, imagined or assumed. It was wonderfully up-lifting. It was unexpectedly raucous and happy. The day was filled with laughter and new friends. The hospice offered me a different future and I grabbed it with both paws.

By Paul Brockbank

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