Hospice Care Week: ‘I was so close to giving up – then I met St Barnabas community nurse’

St Barnabas patient Bob Freeman and community champion Liam O'Kane
St Barnabas patient Bob Freeman and community champion Liam O'Kane

St Barnabas House is joining forces with other hospices across the UK to celebrate Hospice Care Week.

Hospice Care week runs from today (October 7) to Sunday and works to raise awareness of hospice care. This year the theme is ‘this is what it takes’.

Rosemarie Finley, chief executive at St Barnabas House, said: “During Hospice Care Week, we will be shining a spotlight on what it takes to run the hospice – giving people a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at all the resources and equipment needed, and the individuals whose dedication and expertise make it all possible.”

9,077 Hospice at Home visits, 1,740 dedicated volunteers, 3,170 counselling and social work support sessions, and countless cups of tea is just some of what it takes for St Barnabas House to provide end-of-life care.

Southwick resident Jack Devonport, 24, became aware of St Barnabas in 2017 after his dad, David Devonport, 59, was diagnosed with lung cancer and given just six months to live.

Since then Jack has raised more than £1,000 for the hospice through walking 180 miles along Monarch’s Way, a 625 mile footpath from Worcester to Shoreham.

Jack and David Devonport

Jack and David Devonport

Jack has challenged himself to walk the whole 625 miles before the end of the year.

He said: “I had no idea how long it was going to take me. In walking the entire length of the Monarch’s Way, I’ll cover the distance of London to Milan, ascending a total distance equivalent to climbing Mount Everest and then some!

“Dad and I live a mile from where the Monarch’s Way finishes in Shoreham-by-Sea, and plan on walking the last stretch together at Christmas time.”

David said: “I think that when Jack saw the change in me after coming to St Barnabas he wanted to do something to help support the hospice.

“The December before I came to St Barnabas, I was really unwell – I’d been taken off my steroid which caused me to feel dreadful, I had stopped eating and lost a lot of weight. I was so close to just giving up.

“That’s when Dot, one of the hospice’s specialist community nurses came to visit me at home. She was absolutely brilliant and helped with everything from arranging physiotherapy sessions, to pain management, sorting out benefits that I didn’t know I was entitled to, and even arranging for our family home to be adapted so that I could get around more easily.”

Keep track of Jack’s journey by visiting his blog – www.jaunts-with-jack.com – or donate via his JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/Jack-Devonport1

Within Hospice Care Week, St Barnabas is also appealing for community companions, like Liam O’Kane.

Liam has been visiting Bob Freeman from East Preston every week for six months, going for a coffee each week.

Community Companion volunteers provide social support to hospice patients and their carers in the local community, To find out more about the initiative visit the volunteer recruitment open morning taking place at St Barnabas House on Wednesday (October 9) from 10am–12pm.

For more information, visit www.stbh.org.uk/community-companions or call 01903 706360.