How Saint Francis Hospice changed our lives.
Mostly of course because my beloved mum was dying and went into Saint Francis to receive end of life care.
But it was also life changing because once I and my family had experienced what a hospice does, and in particular the care which mum received at Saint Francis, there was no way we couldn't feel anything but compelled to support the charity by raising funds and awareness.
For me this awareness takes on two forms. General awareness about the differences between a hospital and a hospice as well as awareness that Saint Francis Hospice serves the whole of the borough of Redbridge as well as other areas.
Both the 18 bed in patient unit in Havering-atte-Bower as well as Hospice at Home which provides palliative care to Redbridge residents.
In simple terms, hospitals serve to find a cause and diagnosis for illness and to intervene medically to cure where possible; hospices serve to maintain life for those with life-limiting illness and give the most comfortable and dignified end of life care possible for the terminally ill.
I believe that our children should learn about hospices in primary school, as they do about hospitals. There are many children's books written about hospitals and hospitalisation but scarce few about hospices and hospice care.
If you have no experience of a hospice, as it was for me, you may imagine them to be frightening, cheerless places full of sickness and death.
Like me, you couldn't be more wrong!
They are full of laughter, love, compassion and camaraderie.
They become 'home' for a few days or a few weeks, not just for the patient but for their family too.
The family are supported through this terribly difficult time just as the patients are.
The moment my mum entered Saint Francis I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and the support and concern for us all was tangible.
And it doesn't stop when the patient passes away either; the hospice offer a bereavement counselling service too.
The opening of the Saint Francis Charity Shop in Wanstead will hopefully raise awareness in these parts.
Much needed awareness for a charity which receives just 28% of its funding from the NHS and needs to raise £7.8 million a year (that's £21,000 a day) to cover the costs of its specialist end of life care services.
1,693 patients were cared for by Saint Francis in the past year.
So now you see why it is so important to us to raise funds and awareness for Saint Francis.
We have done this through walks and runs. My 84 year old father accompanied us on the 10k Star Walk for the hospice this year and my son ran the Bristol Half Marathon in his Nanny's memory last year.
And hopefully this article will have raised awareness locally and encouraged a few readers to dig deep and donate to this wonderful cause or get involved in fundraising for the hospice.
None of us know when we or a loved one might need their help.