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As a child growing up in Chadwell Heath, Peter loved a kickabout with his mates and his two younger brothers, until one day, when he was 7, he had his first asthma attack. This came as a bit of a shock to Peter and his family but they learnt to deal with it and he managed his condition well.
As he got older Peter developed a passion for motorbikes, riding with his friends and shooting the breeze. He loved fishing too. Peter was very arty, he loved using old-style airbrushing techniques and could sit for hours creating art. He could turn his hand to anything, working as a chef, a French polisher and a builder. But by his late 30’s, his condition had deteriorated and he was diagnosed with COPD and heart failure, so he took medical retirement.
In and out of hospital
By now, Peter was in and out of hospital practically every month. He would stay in for a few weeks to help stabilise him. Peter has a big family, him and his wife Michelle have eight children and six grandchildren with number seven due any day. Michelle has been fantastic throughout, she is Peter’s “rock” and the love of his life, always there for him and helping him with his day-to-day problems.
Peter tells the story from here.
During a recent hospital admission, the nurse told me that St Joseph’s would be able to help as they specialise in chronic illnesses. I just broke down. I thought there’s something they’re not telling me, I’m only 57 and they’re sending me there to die, so I said no. I took some time to think about it and discussed it with my family, and they said give it a try.
Well, how do I explain what St Joseph’s has done for me, not just with my physical illnesses, but my mental health?
Coming to St Joseph’s
I started Day Hospice on a Tuesday. It’s my favourite day of the week. I turn up, and we’re all in the same boat, but we don’t talk about our illnesses. You actually wouldn’t know we were ill, apart from the oxygen cylinders and wheelchairs of course. We talk about normal stuff. No one says “Should you be doing that?” Instead, they say “Let’s do that, let’s give it a go!” and we do, we all love it, we’re like musketeers. I’ve also started doing art again in an art therapy class and I haven’t lost my touch!
They offered me reiki, a complementary therapy. “What’s that?” I said. They said just try it so cynical old me sat in the chair and said, do your worst. It was unbelievable, I felt I was floating. Then I tried massage therapy. Now I don’t like being touched that much, but I said “OK, give it a go.” They had these essential oils and soothing music and I thought, I’ll pretend I’m relaxed, just to make them feel better. Next thing I knew I had woken up and I was feeling on top of the world, calm and so chilled. Unbelievable.
I love a laugh and a joke, and boy can I talk, but my many illnesses have affected my mental health, particularly now that I may be put onto the transplant list for a new heart and lungs. So St Joseph’s recommended I see someone in the psychotherapy team. My hospice counsellor has helped me so much, it’s fantastic to be able to take to someone outside the family. He just listens, and I love to talk, so it works perfectly.
The hospice recently asked me if I wanted to come in for respite for a couple of weeks, a planned stay to make sure I’m coping. My first reaction was, no, because I don’t sleep well at all, but I decided to give it a go and give Michelle a break.
Well, I can tell you that it’s better than a hotel. I haven’t felt this relaxed since I last went fishing. I have the most comfortable reclining chair in my room which I just fall asleep on. The Occupational Therapy team are going to try and source one for me for when I go home and they’ve given me a more suitable walking frame too.
Everyone is on first name terms, there’s no doctor this or nurse that. It makes you feel so comfortable. I was even having fry ups for breakfast every day until I stupidly sent a picture of it to my wife, so now I’m back on the bran flakes!
The great escape
I can go out if I want to while I’m here, it’s up to me. I made friends with a man called George who is 85, he reminded me of my grandad. Michelle came to visit and we decided to go to the pub. It was like a scene from the Great Escape, Michelle pushing George down the street in his wheelchair, me in my electric wheelchair, we were even humming the theme tune as we went! Seeing George sitting in the pub grinning was the best thing ever. We’re planning our next “escape” very soon.
I would love to be back to my happy-go-lucky self, driving my family up the wall with my jokes, kind of like I feel when I’m at St Joseph’s. My wife and kids have all noticed the difference, I feel calm, happy and optimistic, thanks to the hospice.