Families praise Yorkshire hospices for 'amazing' care during epidemic

Yorkshire families have spoken about the tremendous value of the region's hospices, many of which have been saved from closure thanks to government funding for charities this week.

Jess Bagley is looking after baby Mia Browne, who was born very poorly and with complex needs, at Martin House Children's Hospice

Families currently in the care of hospices and those who used them in the past have talked about the need for more awareness of the services they provide and the importance of donating to them to ensure they survive the coronavirus epidemic.

After warning they might be forced to closed this week, hospices received a rescue package from Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who announced £750m of funding for charities which are providing key services during the crisis.

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Jess Bagley, 22, is currently staying in Martin House children's hospice with her five-month-old daughter Mia, who suffered a brain injury at birth and was diagnosed with hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy.

Ivan di Silvestro was initially cautious about going into a hospice but his wife Philippa said it was "100%" the best decision for the family

Mia, who was not breathing at birth, is severely disabled and was brought to the Wetherby hospice for care.

Ms Bagley said: “We had some people come to the hospital from the hospice just to tell us a bit about the hospice and what they do, and they sounded really lovely so we decided to bring her here to spend our last memories with her.

“The staff have been really amazing and really accommodating. We’ve had our own little room.”

Ms Bagley and her partner Nathaniel Browne, 31, can take it in turns to stay with Mia to spend time with their daughter and give each other a break.

The di Silvestros thanked Saint Michael's hospice for the family's care. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Initially she was not expected to live past a couple of weeks but she rallied and was able to be brought home.

Now Mia and her parents spend time between home and the hospice.

Though they need to spend most of their time in the room due to lockdown measures, staff have been getting them everything they need to make them comfortable and they have had visitors who have helped them make good memories.

She said: “We had an art lady who came and helped us make canvases with her foot prints, and things like that. It’s been amazing. It’s just a really beautiful place.

“I never even knew it existed before but now it feels like a second home to me.”

Philippa di Silvestro also praised her local hospice for the care received by her family when her husband Ivan was receiving end-of-life care.

In 2016, Mr di Silvestro was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer and became a patient at Saint Michael’s Hospice in Harrogate, where he was taken for pain management.

At the age of 45, the diagnosis had come as a shock to the couple, who had a young daughter, Sofia, and another, Liliana, on the way, but they were cared for very well by hospice staff.

Mrs di Silvestro, 39, said: “He was going downhill rapidly. I can’t tell you what a relief it was when Saint Michael’s came on board.

“As soon as someone mentioned the word ‘hospice’ we were really fearful because we associated it with end of life, but it wasn’t - we had five incredible weeks there, which seems really strange to say.

“The staff were amazing - they’re very personal and hand-picked for the job. The tuning point for me was when they cried over when he started to go downhill.

“They were really wonderful. If he needed medication and we were out in the grounds they would come out and find us.

“It wasn’t like a hospital, it was a very different experience.

“When you look back, obviously it was the worst time of your life but it wasn’t as well. They prepare you as much as they can for what’s going to happen. We had a very lively toddler and I was really worried about her going into the hospice because there are some really sick patients but the nurses were really good - they would take her for a wander to go get an ice lolly.

“They want to make your last time together as comfortable and as special as it can be.”

Mrs di Silvestro and Sofia have also used the charity’s bereavement service, Just B, which supported them after Mr di Silvestro’s death.

Mrs di Silvestro said she now does all she can to support the work of Saint Michael’s.

She said: “I don’t think people are aware that hospices get very little funding from the government.”

Hospices welcomed the government’s pledge to financially support charities that are vital to coping with the coronavirus epidemic this week.

Saint Michael’s Hospice chief executive Tony Collins said this money was “gratefully received”.

He added: “It is exactly what we need to be able to continue to care for people affected by terminal illness and bereavement and support our community with their emotional wellbeing.

“This includes keeping as many of our traditional services running as possible so we can help release pressure from the NHS.”

Martin Warhurst, chief executive of Martin House, said: “This money is a welcome relief in the short-term, but it in no way makes up for the loss of our voluntary income, and the

lockdown is still hurting us badly.

“But it does mean we can play our part in supporting the NHS during this crisis. We are an integral part of the healthcare system, and we are helping the fight against Covid-19 by

providing care to children who would otherwise be in hospital, and working to prevent hospital admissions, freeing up beds for coronavirus patients.”

Martin House expects to lose £1.7 million in three months due to the lock down, and estimates it could see income fall by between £4 million and £7.4 million in the coming 12

months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It relies on fundraising for nearly 90 per cent of its £9 million a year running costs, as it provides care to more than 400 babies, children and young people across West, North and

East Yorkshire with life-shortening conditions.

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