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Tributes pour in for Hammers hero

Everyone at Saint Francis Hospice has had to adjust amid the coronavirus outbreak — including patients' loved ones. Thanks to their understanding of the measures we've put in place, we can continue to safely welcome them to our Hospice throughout the pandemic.

Dennis Lepine and Declan Rice

One family that was still free to visit our ward, despite COVID-19, was the Lepines from Hornchurch. It's there where they shared some precious last moments with someone very dear to them: Dennis Lepine.


As a delivery driver, Dennis carried on working when the UK was plunged into lockdown. When he returned home of an evening, Dennis could only manage a few spoonfuls of soup before nodding off unexpectedly. Stomach pains prompted Dennis to visit his GP.


Tests revealed that Dennis was living with oesophageal cancer, which had spread to his liver. He was given only three months to live. Dennis's family experienced more agony when they were unable to visit him in Queen's Hospital, which was also in lockdown. It was Dennis's wish to get to our Hospice as soon as he could. Dennis's wife, Jacqueline, was taken aback when she arrived.


"The Hospice was so beautiful," she remembered.


Jacqueline fondly recalled how our nurses kept apologising to her as they went about their work with smiles behind masks while donning extra personal protective equipment. She revealed that it was the little things our staff and volunteers did that made her feel safe, such as making her tea. As Dennis became unable to eat solid food, our nurses mixed ice cream with cream soda for him to drink.


Jacqueline soon made friends for life with other patients' loved ones. Sadly, Dennis didn't make his three-month prognosis and passed away just three weeks after his diagnosis. He was 57. Jacqueline has some advice for anyone who thinks they may need our care.


"Don't hesitate," she explained. "You can only do so much as loved one, but the Hospice can do so much more. It's the friendliest place I've ever been to."


Dennis worked for West Ham United for many years as a scout and academy driver. He got to know several players, including Declan Rice. The England international would visit Dennis's family to comfort them when he became ill.


"Declan had his arm around me as the ambulance collected Dad to take him to the Hospice," recalled Dennis's son, Billy. "That was the last time I saw my dad. It was a nice moment, and Declan gave me strength."


Tributes continue to pour in for the much-loved Dennis — including many from current and ex-West Ham stars on Twitter.


You can help people just like Dennis — for as little as £3 a month. That's less than a cup of coffee, glass of wine, or pint of beer. You can find out more here.