The heights George will go to for the love of Eve and St Luke’s care

Not taking the easy option

When Marc Fletcher and his best mate started making plans to climb Mount Snowdon in memory of his late mother, Eve – shining a spotlight on the care she received from St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth – they asked his father, George, if he’d like to take the train up to meet them at the top and perhaps walk back down.

But the 85-year-old was having none of it. If they were climbing Snowdon – the highest peak in Wales – then George wasn’t going to take the easy option.

For him it’s not only a way to honour his wife of 55 years, but also to raise funds for St Luke’s so that other local families can benefit from the compassionate doorstep urgent care service he had no idea existed until they experienced it themselves earlier this year.

‘It made such a difference to see my Mum and Dad supported like that.’

Marc said: “Dad is not a crier, but I saw tears in his eyes when the St Luke’s nurses gave him a hug. It made such a difference to see my Mum and Dad supported like that.

“Everyone knows St Luke’s name but not the extent of what they actually do. I didn’t realise they looked after people in their own homes, until they came to care for Mum. We thought it was the hospice building at Turnchapel and that was it.

“I will be forever grateful for what they did for us. I think it would have been a completely different journey without St Luke’s.”

Trip of a lifetime

This weekend retired AA patrolman and former firefighter George, from Ivybridge, is joining Marc, and family friend Mark Buckham, on a heartfelt trip of a lifetime up and down the rugged mountain path he last remembers attempting nearly 70 years ago as a young Army recruit doing National Service.

“Dad’s pretty fit for 85, but it’s still going to be a challenge. Last year he had a heart attack and an operation to insert a stent. He broke a vertebra in his neck about 11 years ago but managed to survive!” said Marc.

He and George will be camping nearby on Friday and Saturday nights before joining Mark to embark on the Llanberis Path on Sunday, a total of nine miles there and back, climbing to a height of 975m (3199ft). It’s the longest, but the easiest of the Snowdon routes, but still no small feat, and it’s going to take them at least seven hours to complete.

“Mark has done a lot of planning to work out the best way for us to do the trip with Dad and make it as comfortable as possible for him. We’ll be taking good care of him,” said Marc.

Coming home

Since becoming poorly last August, Eve – originally from South Africa and with Marc’s half siblings, Kevin and Sharon, from a previous marriage – had been in and out of hospital. George practised his caring skills by helping other patients on the ward while she slept. After her final stay of five weeks, she had had enough.

“Eve wanted to come home, so you just do it, don’t you?” recalled George.

St Luke’s really cared

Initially he was reluctant to accept help to look after his wife in the months leading up to her death in March. From past experience George felt that no outsiders could care for her as well, or as lovingly, as he could – until the team from St Luke’s turned up at their door.

He soon found out that they weren’t only there for Eve, who had multiple health problems with her circulation and respiratory systems, as well as Type 1 diabetes, and had become frightened to be left alone. They were there for him too.

“At the time you can’t really take it all on board, but looking back I am so grateful,” said George.  “Before I’d found it really difficult not knowing who was coming and when, and being asked lots of questions all the time about what I had or hadn’t done.

“It was different with St Luke’s nurses. You just can’t fault them. They were straightforward and honest, and they listened. I didn’t see what was happening to me. I was looking after my wife, missing meals and not getting enough sleep. The St Luke’s team insisted I must have a rest twice a day. At first, I thought they were just being polite, but they really cared.

“They were firm, but it came across in exactly the right manner, and they gave me a hug and a cuddle when they could see I needed it. This is the sort of thing that goes on behind the scenes that people just don’t know about until it happens to them.”

Their care felt personal

For Marc, it was wonderful to see his dad being able to simply spend time with his mum, rather than rushing up and down stairs all the time, feeling frustrated and tired.

“The message I want to get out there is the ricochet effect on the family when St Luke’s come in – the ease it gave Dad and how it made me feel knowing he was being taken care of too. We could see Dad running himself into the ground, but he couldn’t. They gave him emotional support, telling him he was doing a good job, but he needed to rest as well.

“It meant we were all able to have better quality of time with her,” added Marc.  “The whole family felt it. It eased the pressure and worry. We felt comfortable with the St Luke’s nurses here and their care felt very personal.  I think Mum was always pleased to see them arrive too. And, because she was at home, her 10 grandchildren were able to be with her too.”

Talking it through

Marc also appreciated how the St Luke’s team always talked to his Mum, explaining everything they were doing and what was happening to her, in simple language, as well as allaying his and his dad’s concerns.

“When we were really worried that Mum was eating very little, they told us that she didn’t need much food because she wasn’t using a lot of energy. We were still trying to make her better, but Mum knew it was her time and St Luke’s helped us to understand that.”

Fear of the unknown

As Eve got closer to death, George was grateful that they spelt out what they could expect when someone is dying and left him information to refer to.

“A lot of it is fear of the unknown and reading the leaflet they left told us what was going to happen,” he said. “I didn’t know the signs, but it explains them really clearly. It’s much better if you understand what’s happening and what to look out for. People need to know these things.”

Eve’s funeral was in April and her grave at the cemetery is a very short walk from the couple’s Ivybridge back garden, just as she wanted.

If you would like to sponsor George, Marc and Mark on their Mount Snowdon climb, please visit their GoFundMe page.

Watch this space to find out how their expedition went.

Related articles

, , ,

BLOG: Ray’s windswept 1,000-mile quest for Toby

Halfway up a wild and wet Mount Snowdon, George Fletcher felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to find a little girl aged around seven or eight waiting to hand him a £10 note. She wasn’t the first or last to approach the 85-year-old from Ivybridge as he embraced the enormous challenge of climbing the highest mountain in Wales, accompanied by his son Marc, and family friend Mark Buckham, to raise funds for St Luke’s.
, ,

BLOG: Hospice hero celebrates 35 years

As modest as he is kind, Andy Campbell would never describe himself as a ‘hospice hero’, but having reached the milestone of 35 years’ dedicated service with St Luke’s – making him the team’s longest serving current employee - it’s a title that could not be more deserved.
, ,

BLOG: George’s peak performance!

Halfway up a wild and wet Mount Snowdon, George Fletcher felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to find a little girl aged around seven or eight waiting to hand him a £10 note. She wasn’t the first or last to approach the 85-year-old from Ivybridge as he embraced the enormous challenge of climbing the highest mountain in Wales, accompanied by his son Marc, and family friend Mark Buckham, to raise funds for St Luke’s.
, ,

BLOG: National Volunteers’ Week 2024 – celebrating the volunteers keeping St Luke’s services running

Behind the doors of St Luke’s you will find an intricate web of volunteers keeping our charity running. This week is Volunteers’ Week (3-9 June), a chance to celebrate the wonderful team of volunteers that keep the cogs of St Luke’s turning. From working in our fleet of shops, to volunteering at our specialist unit, our volunteers are the backbone of our organisation.
, ,

BLOG: Making miles matter for Dad

“I truly believe that it was the care of St Luke's that gave my dad the chance to meet his grandson and have six precious weeks with him.” For every patient we care for, there are family or loved ones going through the unimaginable. Which is why memory making is so important to us. We want to give our patients the chance to live until they die, making precious memories with loved ones. Jade Moore will be taking part in our Midnight Walk on Friday 12 July in memory of her father, Stuart Moore who died in September last year after being diagnosed with tonsil cancer.
, ,

BLOG: The heights George will go to for the love of Eve and St Luke’s care

When Marc Fletcher and his best mate started making plans to climb Mount Snowdon in memory of his late mother, Eve - shining a spotlight on the care she received from St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth - they asked his father, George, if he’d like to take the train up to meet them at the top and perhaps walk back down. But the 85-year-old was having none of it. If they were climbing Snowdon – the highest peak in Wales – then George wasn’t going to take the easy option. For him it’s not only a way to honour his wife of 55 years, but also to raise funds for St Luke’s so that other local families can benefit from the compassionate doorstep urgent care service he had no idea existed until they experienced it themselves earlier this year.
, ,

BLOG: Roger Young revs up to keep St Luke’s on the road

A premier south west car dealership is helping to keep St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth’s expert urgent care services on the road. The charity’s nursing teams clock up more than 80,000 miles each year, delivering their specialist end of life care direct to the homes of patients all over Plymouth, West Devon, the South Hams and East Cornwall, so it’s vital for them to have transport they can rely on. This week Roger Young’s recently opened Suzuki showroom, based at Saltash, handed over the keys to a brand new Ignis hybrid four-wheel drive hatchback to bolster the charity’s fleet for the next six months.
, ,

BLOG: Volunteer Sheila’s seaside stay

Our volunteers are a truly inspiring bunch. They selflessly give up their time to help others, rarely getting time themselves to relax and unwind. Which is why we were overjoyed when one of our dedicated volunteers was awarded a special mini-break thanks to Room to Reward, a volunteer-recognition charity who offer UK based breaks for hidden heroes. Sheila Eccleston, who lives in Hooe, has been volunteering for half a day every week on our reception at our specialist unit at Turnchapel for the last decade, having celebrated her 10 year anniversary in November last year. It was her unwavering dedication and kind-hearted nature that meant she was nominated for the reward.
, ,

BLOG: Green-fingered volunteers transform Turnchapel gardens

Green-fingered volunteers have been busy transforming the gardens at our specialist unit. Ten volunteers from Plymouth and South Devon Community Forest generously gave their time and skills to clearing out the overgrown gardens at Turnchapel ahead of our new transformation works that will be commencing soon. The team, who are employed by Plymouth City Council, operate across Plymouth, Dartmoor National Park and the South Hams, providing funding and support to plant trees that will help with biodiversity loss, increase pollinators, capture carbon and mitigate the effects of climate change.