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My name is Tilly and as we approach Christmas I’d like to share my hospice story with you.  My first experience of the Ayrshire Hospice was in December 2010 when my brother in law, Jim, received hospice care before he died there.  I really didn’t expect to be visiting my 35 year old son, John, at the Ayrshire Hospice only six years later.

My Son JohnJohn was a fun loving boy.  He loved football and going out at the weekend with his pals.  He moved into his own flat in early 2015 and took great pride in having his “own place”.  He loved buying new things for it and decorating it the way he wanted.  He would come back home to visit his dad and I every Tuesday night.  We made it macaroni night as he loved macaroni cheese!  Little did we know that just a few months later, our lives would change forever.

John was diagnosed with cancer in July 2015.  After nearly a year of receiving chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy John was told in May 2016, that his condition had become terminal.  The team at the Beatson referred John to the Ayrshire Hospice team and a specialist nurse, Tracy, came to see John and the family at home. 

Tracy was lovely and John felt very much at ease with her.  He could open up and talk to Tracy about things that were hard to talk to his dad and I about.  In June 2016 John was admitted to hospital and spent three weeks there.  It was at that point that Tracy said she would see if a bed was available for John in the hospice.  John was keen to move to the hospice as he hated being stuck in the hospital. We wouldn’t have been able to look after him at home as he really needed specialist care

£50 typically pays for two hours of that specialist nursing care

John was admitted to the hospice on 1st July 2016.  As I said, I had visited the hospice before, but not to visit my son so I was feeling a bit apprehensive on my first trip to see him.  But by the time his dad and I had arrived John was already outside in his bed.  His first words were “I’ve only been here ten minutes and already I’m outside in the fresh air and I’ve got Wi-Fi!” That meant a lot to John as his condition meant he couldn’t get out of his bed.

John Kelly Mum And Dad Outside In The Garden

John settled into the hospice very well.  He felt safe there and was well looked after.  As his mum, that’s all I could want for my son.  John had a lot of wounds that needed specialist care and dressings and he was reassured that all his needs were being looked after.  John said that the nurses were “his angels”.

John received a lot of visitors.  We would visit every day and his gran and aunt would visit regularly too.  Sometimes his friends would visit straight from work.  It didn’t matter who visited or at what time – the hospice staff made everyone welcome.  John’s work colleagues paid quite a few visits and the nurses surprised us all by organising a “get-together” in the lounge where all John’s family and friends enjoyed a Chinese takeaway.  We had a lovely night.  John was very close to his family and friends – it was a lovely thing for the nurses to do for him and we were truly amazed.  This is just one of the very special memories we will always have from John’s time at the hospice and is one we remember often.

I remember another time when John’s sister, Kelly, came up to visit him from England.  We were very lucky that we were able to stay in the Wee House family accommodation in the hospice gardens.  We could stay up with John, in the unit, as late at night as we wanted and then just needed to pop over to the Wee House to get a good night’s sleep.  Then in the morning we were able to get our breakfast together.  There were lots of little things about the care that John and the wider family received that are so precious to us because if John hadn’t been in the hospice, we wouldn’t have been able to do them.  We have lots of happy memories of John being in the hospice. 

£25 can help towards the cost of overnight family accommodation for one night

We found it very difficult to speak to John about what his final wishes were.  However, the hospice were able to help us greatly and Charlie, one of the social workers at the hospice, would spend time talking to John about what he wanted to happen and what his wishes were.  We wanted that time to be as John wanted and not what we wanted.  But, how can a mum and dad ask their son what his final wishes are?  We found that very, very hard. When John died on 17th September 2016 Charlie came to us and told us that John had left instructions about what he wanted.  John had also left a lovely letter for Charlie to pass on to his dad and I.  That must have been very hard for John to write – I just can’t imagine.  But Charlie had been able to support John which I thought was just marvellous.  John’s letter to us is something that we will treasure forever and we wouldn’t have it without the help of the hospice. 

To me, the Ayrshire Hospice is just perfect.  John was comfortable, in no pain and all his family were around him – what more could we want?  When it comes to the end of someone’s life, I can’t think of anywhere more peaceful or perfect than what we experienced. 

The hospice supported over 1,400 people from across Ayrshire last year. Please give what you can by clicking here

I realise that there is a cost to run the hospice and that there is a need to fundraise to keep providing the hospice services we benefitted from at no charge to ourselves. The exceptional care we received has encouraged me to raise funds and allows us to give something back. 

We have many happy memories of the time John spent in the hospice.  These memories are important to us all year round but especially as we approach Christmas.  That is one reason why I am supporting the Ayrshire Hospice Light up a Life campaign this Christmas.  John loved Christmas and buying Christmas presents for everyone.  He even used to organise the Christmas nights out for his colleagues at work!

My family and I will be returning our purple stars to be displayed on the hospice Christmas tree to show our support. If you would like to receive a star to write a few words or memories on it, just click here to request one. You can hang it on your Christmas tree at home or send it back to the hospice for display on their tree.

I know that John was extremely grateful for the wonderful care he received from the hospice, as were his dad and I.  Sadly, there will be more families, just like mine, who will need the support of the Ayrshire Hospice.  I never, ever thought I would need their help for my 35 year old son.  Please join me in supporting the Ayrshire Hospice Light Up a Life campaign in any way you can.  The Ayrshire Hospice is always going to be needed and every little amount of financial help all adds up.

Thank you for everything you do to ensure the patients and families who receive the care of the Ayrshire Hospice are so well looked after.  Please keep donating and please keep up your good work!

Yours sincerely

Tillys Signature


PS – Thank you again for your support in the past.  Over two thirds of the hospice’s funding comes from voluntary donations including Gifts in Wills and every penny counts.  Your donation will go a long way to help others like John. 


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