Since her father’s stay at the Michael Sobell Hospice, Katie Deacon has been a dedicated fundraiser, holding events from Golf Days to Raffles. For the past two Christmases she has also been arranging and delivering hampers for the patients, families, and staff at the Hospice. In December 2022, Katie reflected on her experiences with the Hospice and her hamper fundraising project.
“After my dad’s gallbladder cancer progressed in April 2021, he decided that he wanted to stay permanently at the Hospice. So, he went and it was brilliant. He had a really lovely little room overlooking the garden and everyone was so nice. Ben [the Hospice’s Patient and Family Support Therapist] would meet with my dad every single day. What was really touching about the Hospice was that they weren’t only looking after him. I spent a lot of my time there, sometimes overnight, and Ben would always ask if I would like to have a chat also. The fact that he was actually bothered about me and they didn’t just care about my dad meant a lot.
“They became like your family almost because you see them every day.”
“The nurses would bring my dad a drink or medicine and the next minute they’d be back with hand cream asking me if I’d like a hand message! When I stayed overnight, they’d always make sure I had a really comfy, cosy bed and would make me cups of tea. I just thought these people are on another level. If you told them what you were doing on the weekend, they’d ask about it when you next met. They became like your family almost because you see them every day. They were just so sweet and personal.
“So, when it came down to Christmas in 2021, I felt like I really wanted to do something for the Hospice. It also helped me after the death of my dad because I wasn’t going to be buying him anything for Christmas, so I thought “What can I do instead to honour his memory?” That Christmas I just put a few things into a couple of hampers with my work colleagues, nothing crazy. The Hospice staff were so pleased when we came in. Ros [Dr Ros Taylor, MBE, Medical Director] knew exactly who I was. My dad had died in May 2021 and she came over and said “You’re Martin’s daughter”, so that was lovely. Then this year  I wanted to do something again.
“This is what Christmas is all about”
“I have moved jobs, it’s a much bigger company and the support for the Michael Sobell Hospice has been so amazing. The response from my colleagues about the hampers was just incredible. Most people were going out on lunchbreaks and coming back with bags of stuff. One of my friends brought in loads of brand-new pyjamas. Everyone was saying “This is what Christmas is all about, it’s really changed my outlook on things.” I’m here thinking this is amazing because that’s why I started this! I’m really happy that other people felt like that too.
“In my home on Christmas Day, we’ve always got chocolates and biscuits around and I wanted to make sure the nurses and everyone in the Hospice had that as well. I also thought “If I was a young kid visiting a parent, what would I like?” So, we donated things like little selection boxes and little teddy bear chocolates. We also donated gift sets; I thought if people staying at the Hospice are on their own and their families aren’t coming, they can have a little present, just make it feel a little bit normal.
“When he was well, one big thing my dad really liked was a Jack Daniels and Coke. When he was really ill in the Hospice he said “I really want a Jack Daniels!” I laughed, I thought he was joking around. I was like “They’re not gonna let you have that.” The Nurse said “Of course he can, it’s not going to do any harm … we’ve got some on Lenny’s Bar!” I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was brilliant. So, we also gave the Hospice some Jack Daniels; we got loads of things for all age groups.
“In a weird way…the Hospice is a really positive place.”
“Even though it’s always connected to the sadness of my dad dying, in a weird way I think the Hospice is a really positive place. I don’t know what it is but I know as soon as I go in there I’ll be like “it’s alright, it’s fine”. The Psychological and Emotional Support Team have also made it clear that even if I needed to speak to someone in a year’s time, they would be there for me. We really made a close bond with them all. Everyone has to understand that this isn’t just like a hospital where a nurse will come round every few hours, this is on another scale. It’s so personal and everyone is so dignified there.”