An Alrewas priest is making a heartfelt appeal for people to support St Giles Hospice after the charity cared for his wife before her death earlier this year.
Adam Watkinson’s wife Sue was receiving palliative care as an inpatient at St Giles in Whittington when she called Adam in March and told him she was struggling to breathe.
He visited her bedside before being told she had suspected coronavirus – meaning he had to self-isolate at home
Adam said that knowing that Sue was being well cared for and did not die in fear was the greatest gift the hospice could give him at such a difficult time.
“At that time – in the height of lockdown – and because I too had possibly been exposed to coronavirus, I had no choice but to self-isolate for seven days on Government guidance.
“I sat next to Sue, holding her hand. She was wearing a watch that I had bought her just weeks before and I watched the minutes on it ticking down to 12, knowing from that moment on I’d probably never see her again.
“It was such an emotional moment for everyone, but St Giles’ clinical director Katie Burbridge was so helpful and thoughtful.
“She knelt down next to Sue, held her hand and told her that she would keep her safe – it was a beautiful moment at such a terrible time.
“Katie’s reassurance was so important to us both.”Adam Watkinson
Sue, who worked as Matron-in-College at Eton School, was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018.
During term time she and Adam, who is an Anglican Priest and Chaplain at Charterhouse School, lived apart, but during holidays the couple shared a home in Alrewas with Sue’s son Sam.
They moved to the area in July 2019, but only months later Sue fell ill on New Year’s Eve and a scan revealed that her cancer had returned and spread.
She began chemotherapy but developed sepsis and was told that the treatment would have to end and that she would receive palliative care.
“Professionalism, humanity and gentleness”
Sue was admitted to St Giles in the hope that her condition could be stabilised enough for her to return home. Adam spent as much time with her as he could.
“Right from day one she was totally reassured that St Giles was the best place for her to be. The nurses started caring for her straight away – no detail was left unchecked and they looked after her so well.
“Sue loved birds and her room looked out onto the trees. We were allowed to put bird feeders up so she could watch them, which was such a joy.”Adam Watkinson
But Adam was soon told that family visits were being limited to one a day due to the national rise in COVID-19 cases.
“The staff were all so wonderful and we looked upon them as family. They started to wear protective clothing – but despite that, we could still see their eyes and could see the love and compassion that was there.
“One of the people who cared for Sue was asthmatic and although she could have been vulnerable to COVID-19 herself I watched as she helped my wife.
“I preach about love and self-sacrifice but at St Giles I was watching it in action every day.
“They showed such professionalism, with humanity and gentleness. When the nation clapped for the NHS and health staff each week I could put real faces to them.”Adam Watkinson
Adam has told his story in a moving video supporting Katie’s Appeal, named after the hospice’s clinical director who pledged to look after Sue during her final days when Adam was unable to visit.
“Sue was going to face death without him, but we made sure we were 100% with her and she was never, ever on her own – that’s the promise I made to Adam and that’s the promise we kept as a team.
“We are so indebted to Adam for his kind support and honoured that we were able to offer Sue and Adam comfort at such a heart-breaking time.
“With ongoing COVID-19 restrictions this continues to be an extremely worrying time for everyone, especially our patients and their families who are living with a terminal illness.
“We are concerned about the impact the coronavirus outbreak continues to have on the hospice’s future.
“The fact is that we need to raise £850,000 every single month just to keep our services going.
“That’s why our message to the community is that we need your help today to ensure that we’re here for you tomorrow.”Katie Burbridge
“Holding her hand as she slipped away”
Reliving his final moments with Sue, Adam is asking people to help in any way they can.
“It’s so important that other families continue to get the care, love and reassurance that Sue and I received.
“I was devastated when we had to part, but Sue told me not to get too upset and that it would just be like when we went to work at our separate schools.
“It was a relief to see that she had such acceptance and it helped so much that Katie had promised Sue would be safe.
“Sue’s end – when it came – was quite beautiful. She passed away on the morning of 29th March, after a night of restful sleep.
“She could see the birds through the window and one of the nurses who was caring for Sue, noticed a change in her breathing and was holding her hand as she slipped away.”
People can find out more about how to support Katie’s Appeal at www.stgileshospice.com/katiesappeal.