Keith Ware’s wife, Lorraine, died last year. By sharing his story, he hopes you will understand the need to help the Rowans, your local hospice, with its Silver Jubilee Appeal to completely transform its services.
Hopefully you have been lucky enough NOT to have needed the help of the Rowans.
If you have been lucky, then you may not appreciate how important their work is.
I met my wife, Lorraine, at school. We were together for 38 years, around 13,000 days. We didn’t spend much more than 13 of those days apart.
We have three children and three grandchildren.
We had a business but decided it was time to give it up and enjoy ourselves.
I retired on the 28th of February, 2017. The very next day Lorraine was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and died three months later.
A sign of how well she was liked was the fact that 250 people attended her funeral.
So, during this brief period what did the Rowans do for us?
I can only speak from my perspective, not Lorraine’s. I have no idea what was going through her mind, but I am very certain that Rowans made her final days much more bearable.
Our first encounter with a Rowans person was with a nurse attached to the Rowans. She became known to us as Mary Poppins.
Our consultant at Guildford was giving us hope. ‘Mary’ made it quite clear that we were in serious trouble and, ultimately, we had very little hope. It may sound strange, but that was what we needed.
We had just started a 13-week rollercoaster ride and her strength was exactly what was needed.
‘Mary’ appeared at various times during the next few months. Her help and advice was welcome and hugely important.
After six weeks, halfway through Lorraine’s illness, she was not very well at all.
We spent a week in QA Hospital and on the Friday we were told that Lorraine would be dead by Wednesday. We were offered a place at the hospice.
The knowledge that the Rowans would have a bed for Lorraine was reassuring.
Peculiarly though, I had taken this for granted. Such is their reputation. I had never given a thought as to how these places become available and who pays.
However, we took a family vote and decided Lorraine was coming home with us.
This was when we were introduced to Hospice at Home.
Happily she got a little better and we had six more weeks with her.
As a family we were all pretty good at looking after Lorraine and didn’t need any help.
Then late one afternoon we had a problem. I went from being in control of my wife’s care to being totally desperate in a matter of minutes. I needed help and I needed it right away.
Incredibly, and this is true, the phone rang. It was the Rowans nurses calling to see if we needed any help yet.
They arrived minutes later and everything was fixed. It sounds corny but they were just like angels, appearing like magic. I would have given my house to see them arrive.
It was one of the most anxious and distressing moments of my life, a feeling of total helplessness. But fortunately I was not alone. This is what Rowans does.
Over the next three days, the last three days, the nurses visited twice daily and looked after Lorraine, care I could not have given. It was clear we were getting to the end.
Their clear understanding of what was happening went a long way to making Lorraine’s last hours comfortable.
We dispensed with most of the medicines apart from painkillers. What was the point worrying about long-term effects when there was no long-term?
Finally, sadly, the time arrived. I made what I think is referred to as SOS calls.
Twice through the night a Rowans nurse came out and administered painkillers and happy drugs.
Lorraine passed away at half past four in the morning, peacefully, in no pain, at home in the house she loved. This was made possible by the Rowans team.
The same nurse returned immediately to take care of Lorraine one last time and then left her in our care.
The support throughout this most all-consuming, distressful and sad time was beyond measure. I genuinely can’t explain it, and only if you have experienced it will you understand.
As a family we are all actively supporting Rowans. This is a reflection of how important it was to us.
I genuinely hope that you never need the Rowans’ help. But if you ever do, you will realise what an incredible service it provides.
To find out about the transformation project visit the portsmouth.co.uk and click ‘Rowans Hospice’ on the tab at the top of the site.
A total of £7.5m is needed for the three-to-five year refurbishment which will transform the way Rowans cares for its patients for the next 25 years.