Sisters pay back hospice ‘guardian angels’ to boost palliative care

Two sisters were thrilled to get a hard-to-find bed for their dying mother at Priscilla Bacon Lodge. Now the duo are raising funds for an appeal that will produce more essential palliative care beds for the people of Norfolk. Tony Wenham reports.

In the end, knowing that death was close, Norwich grandmother Kate Hannant wanted to leave hospital and go home.

The snag was that, after two years of caring as Kate’s cancer took hold, her two devoted daughters knew they wouldn’t be able to cope any more – even with the help of family, friends and Social Services.

Repeated and increasingly frantic communication from her daughters to Norfolk’s health services finally led to a bed in Priscilla Bacon Lodge, the specialist palliative care unit in Norwich run by Norfolk Community Health NHS Trust.

“It was like winning the Lottery,” says daughter Lisa Taylor who, together with her sister Amanda Churcher, immediately felt the pressure lift as mum began her five-week stay at the Lodge, finally dying at the age of 64 in July last year.

“When I got home it was the first night that I got a good sleep, knowing that mum was in such good hands,” Lisa adds. “Amanda and I were so relaxed because we knew she was being so well looked after.”

Amanda says: “We’ve lived in Norfolk all our lives, but the family had never experienced hospice care. We’d heard about it, and great things about Priscilla Bacon, so it was such a relief to get a bed there for mum – and she was thrilled.

“She was so impressed with her care and treatment that she asked us who was paying the bill. She thought she was in a hotel!”

Lisa Taylor, Kate Hannant and Amanda Churcher - Priscilla Bacon Hospice

Now the sisters, who are both busy mums – Amanda works at Sprowston playgroup and Lisa is a county council worker – are fundraising in their spare time for the Priscilla Bacon Hospice appeal, which aims to raise £12.5 million to build a new state of the art palliative care unit near the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney.

An expanding and ageing Norfolk population has outgrown the 16-bed Lodge and ever-increasing demand for inpatient beds as well as day and respite care means that greater capacity is desperately needed.

The new hospice will offer the most modern facilities, plus a wider range of community day care and out-patient services, providing those who need care a greater breadth of choice.

Already more than £5 million has been raised, but there is still a long way to go before work can start on the 24-bed unit which will serve all of Norfolk.

Lisa Taylor, Kate Hannant and Amanda Churcher - Priscilla Bacon Hospice

Amanda and Lisa have signed up to the appeal’s “Million Pound Challenge”, pledging to donate a minimum £1,000, and have so far raised £1,235 with the aim of reaching £2,000 by the end of the year. When the new hospice is built, they will be able to dedicate a line of text in memory of their mum on the “Million Pound Challenge Wall”.

“Most of the money came from the new year’s day dip at Sheringham, which both of us did,” says Lisa. “But we’re also holding beauty therapy evenings with support from the Body Shop and Neal’s Yard and we’re joining a growing team of Priscilla Bacon Hospice runners who are taking part in the Inflatable 5K fun run at the Norfolk Showground in October.”

Amanda adds: “We’re doing this because we were so impressed with the way mum was treated at Priscilla Bacon Lodge. Nothing was too much trouble, the staff were like guardian angels, and she was treated with such dignity.

“The staff and volunteers were also very caring towards the family. We were able to call the patient mobile line any time of night or day and get the phone passed straight to mum. And even now we’re still in contact with the counselling team.”

Amanda Churcher and Lisa Taylor - Priscilla Bacon Hospice

In the last months of their mum’s life the sisters got her to write down a bucket list of things she would like to do before she died. Some had to be adapted because of her condition – a wish to visit Mexico developed into a night out at Pedro’s restaurant in Norwich, and afternoon tea at the Ritz took place at Priscilla Bacon Lodge.

But fish and chips on Walcott beach, an outing to Wroxham Barns with the grandchildren and a family trip to Center Parcs near Brandon were all achieved.

“We all knew how this was going to end, but we were able to make some wonderful memories for us and our children,” says Lisa.

Join the Million Pound Challenge