Michael McBrien's Story

I am a qualified nurse myself which makes no difference because, at the end of the day, you’re a carer. Teresa was first diagnosed with a tumour in roughly about 1997. She was then re-diagnosed at a check-up and scanned that the cancer had returned and by this stage it had badly spread. They told us that really there was no treatable cure and any care or chemo like that would be palliative. To be honest as a nurse even at that stage I didn’t know what palliative care was. Within the year we were put in touch with the local hospice and their palliative care community team originally; and the GP was absolutely brilliant. Then she gradually became more unwell and then had to spend time in the hospice, several times. One of the first things the nurses said to me, very nicely, when she was admitted the first time, they said, ‘now you’re not a nurse in here, forget you’re nursing, you’re a carer and take it as a carer and we’ll look after you and we’ll look after Teresa.

Early 2001 she became progressively more unwell and was spending longer times as an inpatient and by chance or for some reason every time she got admitted she had the same room. It was a big room and we both had large family circles and there were no complaints about how many were there and sometimes we may have filled the day room on our own. Because it was a large single room, hospice staff brought in another bed and put them together so we were basically still sleeping together which was lovely. I know it sounds a cliché but it was like a second home.

She died on the 18th March 2001. My birthday was the 13th March that year and, along with hospice staff, she remembered and they organised a birthday party for me. That was hospice for you. It is, as a nurse, I can only say it’s care personified.