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Hospice Care Week: Connected in the most unlikely of circumstances.

This Hospice Care Week, we've been sharing stories of how we, Saint Francis Hospice, connect to the community, connect to those in our care, and connect people together. Today, we have the story of how two individuals connected on our inpatient unit.   
Betty-and-Maria in the sunshine (cropped)
Betty Smith found herself in a bed positioned opposite Maria Gregory when she was admitted to the Inpatient Unit. Aged 75, Betty is being treated for incurable bladder cancer. Maria, 52, was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the end of 2014.   

The pair bonded when Betty joined Maria for a walk in our grounds, which they can access from their four-bedded ward. There, they chatted about their illness and their lives, and a friendship quickly formed.  

"I found Maria to be an exceptional person," said Betty. "She doesn't feel bitter about what's happened to her when others would. I love her philosophy and logic. She has supported me."  

And the feeling is mutual.   

"She's real," reciprocated Maria about Betty. "She understands and knows everything about everything. She's a wise woman, but funny too. It makes all the difference having Betty here - it's good when your friends come, but they have to go home."  

"We have visitors but Maria is always there," Betty agreed. "We don't have to talk, but if we want to speak we can. She's always there, to help, to listen."  

Betty-and-Maria in the sunshine

Both Maria and Betty were staying on our inpatient unit because of struggles they are experiencing with their symptoms. While here, they've accessed support from our doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, complementary therapy and counselling services. 

It was Sue Spong, from the Family Support team, who noticed their friendship blossoming: "Every morning while Betty and Maria were inpatients, Betty would push Maria in her wheelchair into the garden," said Sue. "They would talk together for hours and I was privileged to join them on many occasions.  

"Not only had they connected together as patients, they had connected as human beings, listening to each other, talking about their lives. To watch them was poetic and beautiful, one person caring for another, and having only just met but looking like they had always known one another.  
"It's not unusual for friendships to be forged here, at such a significant time in people's lives, but with Maria and Betty I've witnessed something special. They are able to reach out to one another and connect from the heart."  

Chatting to the pair outside in the sunshine, it's clear to see that Betty has perfected the art of helping Maria in and out of her wheelchair. They even finish each other's sentences!

The week we meet, Betty is due to be going home. Maria has since gone home, too. They will now be supported by the Specialist Community and Crisis Support team.

They both admit nerves before arriving at Saint Francis Hospice, but their friendship alleviated all those anxieties.   

"I didn't think I'd find a friend here," said Maria.  

"We've brushed against each other, like ships in the night, but it's been a huge and wonderful experience," said Betty. "I consider myself truly lucky to have met her."