What does it take to make a young terminally ill patient ‘feel like a princess’ in the last days of her life?

Chloe from Callington, Cornwall was just 22 when she came to our specialist unit at Turnchapel to be cared for by our team in December 2017. We pulled out all the stops to create a home from home for her and her loved ones. We helped them make precious memories together, too.

Sadly, Chloe died a few days later, in January 2018.

Here, Chloe’s mum Claire shares her experience of the devastating loss no mother should ever have to face and pays tribute to kind, caring, fun-loving Chloe. Hear how the precious moments they shared when time was running short – and the lasting legacy Chloe has left – bring comfort to Claire in the midst of heartbreak.

Our end of life care is here for young people as well as the elderly. You can help our charity to keep making a vital difference for them and their families 365 days a year, including this festive season – please donate today.

Thank you.

 

“Look what they’re doing for me – this is five-star treatment.”

These aren’t the words of someone being pampered in the surroundings of a luxury spa, but a special lady in the care of St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, whose service is holistic, helping their terminally ill patients create special memories with loved ones and focussing on what matters to them rather than just what’s the matter with them.

For Tracey Dunne from Dartmoor, who is in her 50s and receiving the charity’s care at its specialist unit at Turnchapel, this has included ensuring her husband Tim can spend as much time as possible at her side and even going the extra mile to reunite her with Malone, her beloved 17-year-old horse.

Recognising both the comfort animals can bring and the importance of making memories when time is running short, St Luke’s worked with the big-hearted stables at Buckland Monochorum to enable Tracey, who has cancer, to spend precious time with her loyal steed in the grounds of the unit.

Out in the sunshine, Tracey found solace as Malone nuzzled her hand, providing comfort as only an old, trusted friend can. But that’s not all because back inside Tracey’s room Betty the Budgie, Tracey and Tim’s much-loved pet, was waiting. Their feathered friend has been made welcome by St Luke’s as part of creating a comfortable home from home for the couple at such a challenging time.

Married for almost 30 years, Tracey and Tim met in the 1980s when Tracey spent a year at Tim’s employer, Taylor, Lane and Creber, as part of her degree in building surveying. Tracey went on to become a well-respected buildings conservation consultant whose work, including for the MoD, has taken her far and wide. Away from work, she has always loved being outside, especially on Dartmoor, enjoying nature and getting muddy. She is a gifted artist, too, often drawing from photographs taken by Tim.

Tim said: “Tracey is so talented, kind and always thinking of others – one of the many memories I treasure is of her in pink pyjamas, doing a charity abseil down the Civic Centre.

“While we’ve played the St Luke’s lottery for years because we’re aware of the outstanding work of the charity – and have often joked that the guy who collects our subs has a knack for calling when I’m down to the last fiver in my pocket – we never guessed it would be us needing the service they provide.”

With Tracey having been looked after by St Luke’s at Derriford Hospital, at home and at the specialist unit, Tim has witnessed the charity’s compassionate care in action with staff taking the time to get to know the couple, sensitively explain treatment and make Tracey as comfortable as possible, paying close attention to what matters to her.

He said: “When you hear the term ‘hospice care’ it is frightening and, while the fear doesn’t go away completely, I’m in awe of the way St Luke’s has been alongside us throughout – it’s given us both such an overriding sense of peace.

“When Tracey needed care at home, nurse Derek came to visit. It wasn’t just his specialist knowledge that helped but his empathy, too. He had a really good rapport with Tracey and knew just how to encourage her to describe her pain and other symptoms so that he could expertly manage them.

“Then, when Tracey needed to be in hospital, the St Luke’s team on Brent Ward always treated us with the utmost respect and went out of their way, despite many other demands on their time.

“Even with such reassuring experience of St Luke’s, the realisation that Tracey needed to be admitted to the hospice building felt daunting. It’s not what you’d expect at all though. In a sense there are many parallels with our home because it’s bright, airy and enjoys stunning views. It’s been comforting for both of us that I’ve been able to stay by Tracey’s side, and from the nurses to the cleaning staff and receptionists, kindness is everywhere.

“Tracey and I always speak openly with each other and with her receiving such expert care, we’ve had the space to have difficult but necessary conversations. As she wanted, we have even been able to discuss her wishes for her funeral.

“From the beautiful gardens to the wonderful way they’ve enabled Betty to be with us and helped reunite Tracey with Malone, I will always be so grateful to St Luke’s and remember the big smile they put on my beautiful wife’s face.”

Always an annual highlight, our popular Open Gardens season once again delighted crowds of visitors between late March to mid-September, bringing in vital funds to help us keep delivering our much-needed service for patients and their families.

This year’s season was extra special, being the tenth in its history! And from it’s opening at spectacular Gnaton Hall on Mothering Sunday – which raised over £5,000 – to its close at beautiful Bowringsleigh Gardens, it provided many enjoyable, inspiring days out across Devon and Cornwall for green-fingered gurus and those who simply wanted to take time to smell the roses.

In honour of a decade of Open Gardens, this year’s brochure cover design was kindly created especially for St Luke’s by our Patron, much-loved artist Brian Pollard. The original painting was then raffled in aid of our charity, raising over £3,500 and with the lucky winner being from Harrow Barrow, one of the villages that participates in Open Gardens.

With its winning combination of gorgeous gardens big and small, picturesque walks and plant sales, plus the raffle, this season has raised £44,028 for our charity, bringing the total raised through Open Gardens’ ten-year history to over £370,000 – a blooming fantastic total that is making a big difference to those we care for at home, in hospital and at our specialist unit.

Such is the popularity of our horticultural extravaganza that garden owners are already signing up for our 2020 season, with 18 gardens confirmed, including two newcomer village walkabouts, at Shaw Prior and Halton Quay Gardens. Look out for another bespoke design for our brochure cover, too – Kingsbridge artist Jennifer Cooper is kindly doing the honours!

Wayne Marshall, Community Fundraiser and Open Gardens Co-ordinator, said: “What’s so fantastic about Open Gardens is the way it brings communities together in a big team effort to proudly showcase their lovely gardens for such a special cause. From the garden owners who generously throw open their gates to welcome visitors to the big-hearted bakers who create the delicious cakes on offer, I never cease to be encouraged by the swell of support I see for St Luke’s.

“A huge thank you to everyone who ensured our tenth year was such a big success. We really appreciate everything you do.”

Located on the eighth floor of Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, with offices just outside Brent Ward, is our busy Hospital Team providing bespoke care for patients at end of life and supporting the families around them. They are there seven days a week, across every ward, with the core team made up of two doctors, six nurses and administration support, while the extended team includes a chaplain, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and welfare rights officer.

Recently, the team has been joined by a new colleague, Specialist Nurse Becki Harris, so we spoke to her about her role, what it means to be part of the team, and what motivates her to want to make a difference at Derriford.

Becki, who is from Bristol, moved to Plymouth two years ago, attracted by our beautiful coastal location and the quality of life here. She worked as a Chemotherapy Nurse with Healthcare at Home, looking after private patients with cancer, which is when she first witnessed St Luke’s in action as our team is involved in the care of these patients at times of crisis. It was seeing the way they work and the positive difference this makes that fuelled her desire to work for our charity.

Becki said: “As part of my nursing degree I studied aspects of palliative care, and my dissertation looked at the different experiences of patients at end of life – those in hospital with no palliative care teams and the extent to which their dignity was maintained compared to those being cared for at home by a team with end of life expertise.

“Then, working as a hospital nurse, I saw for myself that when patients received bespoke end of life care it had such a positive impact, not just on them but on the loved ones around them, too. This is so important because a negative or traumatic experience can really stay with families long after, hampering them in all sorts of ways and making it more difficult for them to come to terms with their loss. Meanwhile, those who see their loved one receiving compassionate specialist care from a team that has the time to explain things and put them at ease find it incredibly reassuring have more peace of mind. This helps them, both at the time and going forward because their lasting memories are so much more positive.

“I was delighted to secure the job within the team at Derriford, and everyone has been so welcoming, from the doctors to the admin staff.

“The name St Luke’s is so loved and respected, and I feel incredibly privileged to be part of the team at the hospital, helping to remove some of the fear and anxiety people feel at such a challenging time.

“I love problem-solving and getting to the heart of what matters to those we look after. Sometimes, just a five-minute conversation with a patient or their relative can make the world of difference to them and it all helps to change their view of what it’s like to be in hospital.”

Becki is so enthusiastic about our charity and what we contribute to our community that she has been making things a family affair, enjoying Elmer’s Big Parade with her boyfriend’s young niece visiting from Leicester and giving her mum – who works in a hospital in Bristol – an pin badge to attach to her lanyard, which has sparked conversations with others.

This young nurse is also willing to quite literally go to great lengths to raise money for St Luke’s – she’s set to take the 15,000ft plunge from a plane when she skydives in aid of us next year!

Having delighted tens of thousands of people this summer, getting them out on foot across our city ‘hunting’ for the 40 enchanting Elmer sculptures that made up Elmer’s Big Parade, Devon’s biggest public art event of the year is set to go out with style!

Our mammoth mob is not going quietly – in fact, there’s a three-day celebration on the horizon! The mustn’t-miss, last-chance opportunity to get up close to the 40 full-size Elmers and the 25 ‘mini’ sculptures painted by local schools is happening between Friday 4 and Sunday 6 October at Herd HQ in the former Toys R Us store at Western Approach.

After this, the elephants’ trunks will be packed as they head off to their new homes having gone under the hammer at our Grand Charity Auction to raise money for our compassionate care.

As well as providing a free family friendly activity, our mammoth mob – each one individually painted by a talented artist – have been on a very important mission, raising awareness of our charity, the importance of the high-calibre end of life care we provide and the difference it makes to our community.

The upcoming Farewell Weekend will give people the opportunity to meet the artists involved in the project, including internationally renowned Brian Pollard, Patron of St Luke’s, and is an opportunity for people who might have missed the trail itself, not been able to see all the sculptures, or simply want to see Elmer’s chunky chums again and bring visiting family this time.

Adrian Carey, Project Manager for Elmer’s Big Parade, said: “We have been blown away by the success of Elmer’s Big Parade, which has been one of the most popular trails of its kind in the UK.

“Seeing so many families out discovering the sculptures has been heart-warming and we’re pleased to have provided them with a free, fun activity that also highlighted the vital end of life care St Luke’s provides. Our Farewell Weekend is an exciting opportunity to see all the sculptures together, take photographs and – if they’d like – snap up Elmer merchandise. We look forward to welcoming them to Herd HQ!”

With demand for places expected to be high, everyone who purchases a ticket will be allocated a one-hour session at Herd HQ. Tickets are priced £5 each for adults and £3 for under-16s, with free entry for children under two. Opening times are: Friday 4 October: 12 – 7pm, Saturday 5 October: 9am – 7pm, and Sunday 6 October: 9am – 4pm. The first session of each day is reserved for families of children and adults with autism or related conditions who might require more comfort. This ‘quiet session’ will feature subdued lighting and low music and have minimal noise. These times are restricted to 100 people and may also suit wheelchair users.

The VIP Grand Charity Auction is taking place on the evening of 9 October, also at Herd HQ, where a celebrity host will join the man wielding the hammer, Paul Keen of Plymouth Auction Rooms. It is hoped each Elmer auctioned will raise at least £4,000 for St Luke’s to help us continue our vital service.

Paul said: “Over the years we’ve sold a number of items for St Luke’s at the auction rooms, so I wasn’t that surprised when we were asked to do this special auction, but I didn’t really expect it to be as impressive as it is. St Luke’s do so much in providing compassionate care in Plymouth, that they need as much support as they can, and ultimately, it’s financial support. This auction is on such a high platform, and it gives us the opportunity to raise as much as we possibly can.”

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “Almost everyone in our city is likely to require St Luke’s compassionate care one day, or be close to someone who does. That’s why we aim to attract substantial bids for these unique pieces of art that will help us continue to be there for families, enabling them to make the most of every moment together when time is running short.

“We want Elmer’s Big Parade to leave a special legacy beyond the trail and our Grand Auction is a fantastic opportunity to be part of that.”

To find out more about the Farewell Weekend and the Grand Charity Auction, please visit elmerplymouth.co.uk/events.

Celebrating our tenth anniversary, we have presented the public with some beautiful gardens this year as part of our Open Gardens scheme.

As the season comes to a close, we are pulling out all the stops this Sunday for one final garden before we say goodbye to the summer sun. Bowringsleigh Gardens near Kingsbridge is set in ten acres of private established gardens hidden in a peaceful valley of outstanding natural beauty. The gardens are home to a stunning collection of hydrangeas, and many rare trees are to be found in the two large arboretums which are best viewed in September as the leaves turn colour.

Open Gardens Coordinator at St Luke’s, Wayne Marshall, said: “At this time of year the garden is full of colour with plants that are rare to come by. This is great opportunity to explore not only the gorgeous gardens, but also see the house that looks over the gardens is a 15th century listed building with a rich and significant history. This is an enjoyable and inspiring way for our supporters to raise vital funds for our free unique and compassionate care that is provided to patients and their families at home, at Derriford and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.”

Refreshments and plant sales are available. There’s also a chance to enter the Open Gardens annual raffle to win a framed original canvas of our brochure cover by local artist, Brian Pollard.

Bowringsleigh Garden will be open on Sunday 15 September between 2pm and 5pm. Admission costs just £5. Parking is available and wheelchair and pushchair access is available although limited in some areas. The garden is located at Bowringsleigh, Kingsbridge, Devon TQ7 3LL. Following the orange arrows from Bantham Cross towards Salcombe. www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/opengardens

It’s a wrap! Elmer’s Big Parade – Devon’s biggest public art event of 2019 – is coming to an end, but the mammoth mob is not going quietly. In fact, there’s an ele-fantastic Farewell Weekend in store for the whole family to enjoy.

Having spread a huge smile across iconic locations in Plymouth for ten weeks this summer, the sculpture trail featuring 40 colourful, individually painted elephants – each sponsored by a local business – is set for a big ‘farewell’ celebration before trunks are packed and the elephants prepare to be auctioned off in aid of St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth.

From Friday 4 to Sunday 6 October, Herd HQ in the former Toys R Us building at Western Approach will throw open its doors to welcome people keen to see the hefty herd all together under one roof, where they can get a close-up look at the unique designs created by talented artists, including internationally renowned painter Brian Pollard.

Not only will they see the fabulous 40 who’ve enchanted the tens of thousands of visitors out on foot around Plymouth, they’ll also meet the 25 marvellous mini Elmers painted by children at local schools where St Luke’s works together with staff as part of its Compassionate Schools programme, which tackles the taboo topics of death, dying and life-limiting illness in an age-appropriate way and enhances support for bereaved children.

The event – which is ticketed – is a great opportunity for those who may not have had the chance to follow the trail, or those who want to see their favourite sculptures again. It’s also a chance for those who’ve already seen the stunning designs to invite family and friends to visit the city and share the fun experience with them.

Adrian Carey, Project Manager for Elmer’s Big Parade, said: “We have been blown away by the success of Elmer’s Big Parade, which has been one of the most popular trails the city has ever seen.

“Seeing so many families out discovering the sculptures has been heart-warming and we’re pleased to have provided them with a free, fun activity that also highlighted the vital end of life care St Luke’s provides. Our Farewell Weekend is an exciting opportunity to see all the sculptures together, take photographs and – if they’d like – snap up Elmer merchandise. We look forward to welcoming them to Herd HQ!”

With demand for places expected to be high, everyone who purchases a ticket will be allocated a one-hour session at Herd HQ. Tickets are priced £5 each for adults and £3 for under-16s, with free entry for children under two. Opening times are: Friday 4 October: 12 – 7pm, Saturday 5 October: 9am – 7pm, and Sunday 6 October: 9am – 4pm. The first session of each day is reserved for families of children and adults with autism or related conditions who might require more comfort. This ‘quiet session’ will feature subdued lighting and low music and have minimal noise. These times are restricted to 100 people and may also suit wheelchair users.

To find out more about the Farewell Weekend, please visit the Elmer’s Big Parade website.

Purchase your tickets here.

One of Plymouth’s most loved charities is offering you the opportunity to take home your very own Elmer the Elephant while supporting the vital care the service provides across the community.

Tens of thousands of you have had loads of fun this summer, discovering the 65 individually painted, enchanting elephant sculptures in Elmer’s Big Parade as you’ve followed the trail across iconic locations in our city and Mount Edgcumbe. And – as well as providing a free, fun day out – the herd has been on an important mission, highlighting the specialist work of St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth, which cares for people with life limiting illnesses and supports the loved ones around them.

Before the stunning pieces of art go under the hammer at the Grand Charity Auction on 9 October, to raise vital funds for the charity, there’s a chance to win your very own ‘Young Elmer’!

The sculpture you can scoop in the raffle in aid of St Luke’s is very special, having been painted in the design of the classic Elmer the Patchwork Elephant by talented local illustrator Dave Smith. Dave’s work has featured in the well-loved ‘Horrible Histories’ franchise, and he is also the artist behind the Elmer’s Big Parade sculpture ‘Britain’s Ocean City’, which is sponsored by Fairway Furniture and situated on the green at the Royal William Yard.

This fantastic raffle prize is varnished with high-quality glaze which makes it suitable for both indoor and outdoor life. Standing approximately 70cm high, it is the same size as the ‘Young Elmers’ painted by local schools that have been on their very own education trail at Mount Edgecumbe. These mini marvels will be returning to the schools as a legacy for their involvement with Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth and a tool for St Luke’s to continue to work alongside teaching staff as part of the ‘compassionate schools’ programme, which tackles the taboo topics of death, dying and life limiting illness in an age-appropriate way.

Raffle tickets are on sale at all St Luke’s charity shops and other locations such as Fairway Furniture in Plymouth and Tavistock, priced £1 each. The funds raised will help the charity continue the specialist care it provides for patients at home, in hospital and at its specialist unit at Turnchapel.

St Luke’s Adrian Carey, Project Manager for Elmer’s Big Parade, said: “This is a prize money just can’t buy and a unique memento of Elmer’s Big Parade, which has delighted so many people this summer while raising awareness of the vital care St Luke’s provides. Not only has it been colourfully painted by popular and talented artist Dave Smith, it will continue to bring delight long after our other elephants have packed their trunks and headed off to their new homes.”

For more information on Elmer’s Big Parade and events, please visit www.elmerplymouth.co.uk.

Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth is kindly sponsored by Stagecoach South West.