Matt, from Leybourne, loved nothing more than being outdoors, on or near the water. He and his wife Claire enjoyed sailing and walking. Matt loved a challenge, fun and spending time surrounded by his wonderful friends. But in September 2013, at the young age of 41, Matt became ill and was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Here his wife Claire tells us about their Hospice journey…
“During a stay in hospital when Matt was quite poorly we were referred to the Palliative Care Nurse. She suggested Matt might benefit from a visit to the Hospice. Matt just wanted to go home. The thought of the Hospice filled him with fear and panic - he believed hospices were for old people and to him the word Hospice meant it was ‘the end’. At the time neither of us realised how naive we were being.
“Not long after, Matt was admitted to the In-Patient Unit at Heart of Kent Hospice. I soon understood that this was not the end for Matt but we could get the help and support we needed. The staff all listened to Matt and adjusted his medication. This relieved his pain and the transformation in him was amazing. I had some individual counselling which helped me deal with what was happening and also helped me to address how to talk about what we were going through with friends and family.
“The Hospice turned our lives around. In the hospital Matt was one of many – the Hospice is a much smaller, more intimate environment. The Hospice care Matt received aided his recovery and pain control which enabled him to go home and have a much better quality of life for several months. It gave him the confidence to live his life which was comforting and made things easier for us both.
“At home Matt was visited by the Hospice Community Team and the Doctor when he needed it. I knew the hospice was on the end of the phone day or night. Matt received the majority of his hospice care at home. However, during the course of his illness he was admitted to the Hospice In-Patient Unit for symptom management on a few occasions.
“On one of these occasions he really wanted to be home for Christmas. The nurses worked so hard to achieve this for us and Matt came home the week before Christmas. On Christmas Day, having opened our presents together, the phone rang. It was the Hospice just checking we were OK. That familiar reassuring voice at the end of the phone enabled us to relax and enjoy the rest of our day.
“The Hospice didn’t just care for Matt, they cared for me and our families too. We felt like they knew us, our story and that we were on the journey together. From day dot I had my eyes opened as to just how much help there is out there. Without the Hospice it would have been a really dark, difficult time. “When we were at the Hospice Matt said to me, ‘This is where I want to be when the time comes’. It was nice for me to hear, it was important that he felt confident and comfortable making that decision. Matt died peacefully on 27th March 2017 on the In-Patient Unit at Heart of Kent Hospice.
“After Matt died the support didn’t stop. I came to a group counselling session at the Hospice – Stepping Stones. As hard as that was, it was reassuring to know that I wasn’t on my own. From our initial naive perceptions of what a Hospice was and did, today I feel like I’ve got a bond for life. It was such an important part of our lives at such a difficult time.”