Your Stories




I was excited when the possibility of a Residential Hospice started to become more than just wishful thinking.


My father passed away in 1999 from complications due to Emphysema.  After several weeks as a patient at Stratford General it became clear my mother could no longer care for him at home and the hospital was not able to keep him there any longer.  He was moved to a nursing home.  Although the Palliative Care Unit had been open for 5 years, it did not seem that Dad was palliative at this point.  He died a week later. 


As he lay dying, there was barely enough room for my Mother and I to sit by his bedside.  Not the ideal way to end your journey in life.

I had some experience with Palliative Care, having taken the course to become a volunteer shortly after the unit in Stratford General opened.  I volunteered for a couple of years until my parents required more of my time.The Unit was the envy of the whole country.  The nurses were all dedicated to working in Palliative Care.  They had trained volunteers who could be with patients to either relieve family or in some cases BE family…if they had none.  However, it still had the hustle and bustle atmosphere of a hospital with frequent overhead paging and all.


In 2002, my Mother was losing her battle with cancer.  She was admitted to the Palliative Care unit and spent 3 weeks there.  For the last 13 days of her life, my 2 daughters and I slept in 3 cots surrounding her bed.  There was no room to walk about when the beds were set up and the nurses barely had enough room to administer comfort measures to my Mom.  I would slip home for 20 minutes each day to quickly shower, every time hoping she did not pass while I was gone.  My girls…… they never left.  There were no facilities for families to freshen up, so my kids took turns sneaking into the patient showers at the end of the hall. 


The nurses gave my Mom wonderful care but….it was still a hospital.


I remember asking the nurse about all the pills they kept giving my Mother.  She was starting to have difficulty swallowing.  Well, one of the pills was for her Cholesterol????  Needless to say, I had that one stopped.  I wonder whether the family of palliative patients who did not have a medical background would have even know what questions to ask in those circumstances. 


The Palliative Care Unit, that was once the envy of many, gradually became a distant memory with the cutback in funding.


The mandate of hospitals is to help people to live…. not to help them through the journey of dying.


Well, fast forward to early 2013.  My husband was dying of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He had been diagnosed in 2002 and had very mild symptoms and needed no treatments.  That all changed in September 2012.  He was in and out of Stratford and London hospitals for the next 5 months having chemotherapy and coping with the severe side effects.  We were hopeful he would be able to move forward with a stem cell transplant.


It became clear in January 2013 that the cancer had spread to his brain and become even more aggressive. 


He was admitted to Victoria Hospital with the hope that more treatments would help.  I left the hospital on Thursday night around 8:30pm and when I returned the next morning he had lapsed into unconsciousness.  The hope was definitely gone.


NOW, my focus had changed from hope for a miracle, to hope that we could get him back to Stratford General so he could at least spend his remaining days and hours surrounded by family and friends.  It took 3 days to finally get a bed and have him transferred.  We landed back at the hospital around midnight.


Although there really wasn’t a Palliative Care Unit, they still had a limited # of palliative beds at that time.  I slept on a cot beside his bed.  The day before he died, our 2 granddaughters, who were 3 ½ and 9 years old, came to say goodbye.  They sat by his bedside, in that sterile atmosphere, trying to understand what was happening to their Grandpa.


The nurses and doctors gave him wonderful and compassionate care but…  it was still a Hospital.


He died 2 ½ days after his return from London.  He was 57 years old.  


If there had been a better option than dying in a hospital, it would have been an easier passing for someone who deserved so much better.  It would have made the final journey for his family and friends perhaps a little more bearable.


"The end of life deserves as much love, care and respect as the beginning"

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City of Stratford


Rotary Club of Stratford