In the weeks before Christmas Paul Clayton, 57, from Dronfield was wrapping presents for his family that his wife of 33 years had bought; in the paper she had chosen. He was meticulously following the instructions she had written for him before she died of ovarian cancer on 2nd December.
Kim was just 56 when she died, after first being diagnosed in 2014 and undergoing four rounds of chemotherapy and a hysterectomy.
Tragically the cancer returned and during the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic she was admitted twice to Ashgate Hospicecare’s Inpatient Unit.
Paul said: “From the moment I walked through the doors at Ashgate I knew that Kim was in safe hands. She’d been suffering from severe pain for some time and Ashgate was able to get a handle on that almost immediately, it brought her great relief and meant that she was able to make the most of the time she had left.
“Throughout her stay, Kim was always well looked after, and everyone involved in her care took the time to explain what was happening and what to expect. In fact, everybody who works there deserves a special mention, from the volunteers to the doctors.
“They all took the time to know your name and to talk to you, it really feels like you are part of one big family. They were incredible and offered support in every way.”
During her time in hospital Kim had been unable to have any visitors due to restrictions caused by COVID-19. However, following her move to Ashgate Hospicecare, Paul was able to visit daily due to patients having private rooms.
He said: “We used to say that staying at Ashgate was like being at home, with all your home comforts but with expert medical care when you needed it. Kim had her own room that looked out over a patio with a bird feeder. It sounds like such a small thing, but Kim liked to sit and watch the birds, just as she had done at home.
“Being able to visit as often as I liked made the world of difference to Kim and I. Phone calls are great for keeping in touch, but nothing beats physically being together, even if we were sat doing our own thing, we found great comfort in just being close to one another. That is especially true when you know that time is against you.”
Paul says that he will never be able to repay Ashgate Hospicecare for the difference they made to Kim’s life and that he will be forever grateful for the support during the hardest time of his life.
Speaking after Kim’s funeral, he said: “We decided not to have flowers at the funeral and instead asked for donations to Ashgate, as a way of giving something back. Incredibly we have raised over £3,300, and I hope this goes some way in allowing another family to access this vital support.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, Ashgate Hospicecare has continued to deliver its specialist end-of-life care to patients and their families across North Derbyshire. Indeed, the charity has seen demand for its services grow and has deployed all available nursing staff to their busy inpatient unit.
Hayley Wardle, Director of Quality and Patient Care, said: “Throughout this crisis our teams have been working around the clock to deliver our care and support to those families living with a life-limiting illness.
“We are doing all we can to support our colleagues in the wider health system by keeping people out of hospital, whether that is providing care on the ward or in a patient’s own home.
“I am incredibly proud at how hard our staff and volunteers are working and how they have been able to adapt to the changing demands. They have learnt to overcome challenges and develop new ways to safely deliver the specialist care that Ashgate is known for.”
For more information about Ashgate Hospicecare, please visit www.ashgatehospicecare.org.uk.