The Hsu Family Story

“Francis was always very fit and active - he couldn’t sit still for long! He loved doing new, challenging things in his work and leisure. Travelling, skiing, golf, cooking, baking… but only for his family. That was part of the joy for him – spending the day creating something special and new that we could enjoy together.

“He loved spending time with our kids, Edwin and Emily. He even changed his job to become an IT consultant ten years ago, so he had more flexibility for family time. He and Edwin are so alike. Every year they would go to Japan together on a tour of historic artefacts – not really our thing but the boys loved it!

 “With a terminal diagnosis, everything is so scary and there are so many things you need to learn. The Rennie Grove Hospice at Home nurses came and talked to us so kindly and calmly, taking us step by step through what to expect, listening patiently, reassuring and advising us every step of the way.

“It can make a huge difference when you know what you’re facing. And for someone like Francis – someone used to being so organised and in control – that was so important.

“I was determined he should stay at home, especially given the visiting restrictions due to coronavirus. It doesn’t matter how nice, how kind, how professional and efficient hospital or hospice staff are – it’s still better to be with your family. I didn’t want him to die alone, by himself. I hated the thought of him being alone once we’d gone home.

“And I would do anything to avoid him being admitted to hospital. During one appointment for a scan, he was left sitting for four hours, waiting for his transport home. The tumour meant sitting up for any length of time was painful – it was one of the reasons I couldn’t drive him to hospital. And because of COVID restrictions I couldn’t accompany him in the ambulance either. When he finally got home that day, he was so pale and ill and in so much pain. Having Rennie Grove’s 24-hour call-out option reassured me that the nurses would do everything in their power to prevent a hospital admission too.

“It brings this huge sense of comfort – to know that if you have any questions at all, you can call at any time. The nurses’ weekly visits gave us so much reassurance, confidence and peace of mind. When the November lockdown was announced, we feared perhaps they might not be able to visit any more. We were so relieved to hear they would.

“Because having him at home with us made such a difference, especially towards the end. Every day that goes by is one day less with your loved one. Every minute means a lot. You don’t want to miss any moment of it. Emily could just pop in for a snuggle with her dad, or to have a chat with him when he felt able to talk. There’s no pattern to a dying person’s ups and downs – they don’t necessarily coincide with visiting hours. This way, we could care for him and spend time with him – right until the end.

“And the nurses helped us make sure his passing was peaceful. It wasn’t just the medical care – Francis had pain relief from a syringe driver for the last 48 hours or so – but also their ability to prepare us for every stage of his illness.

“If it hadn’t been for the nurses, Edwin wouldn’t have got back home in time. Francis’ deterioration was so sudden – so rapid – that I wasn’t ready. I just kept thinking “it’s too close – too soon.” But the nurses told me, with their trademark compassion and clarity, “you need to bring him home now –the end of the week will be too late.” Edwin missed the chance to say goodbye to his granddad. I’m so grateful he had the chance to say goodbye to his dad.

“Francis and I always thought we’d move away when both kids went off to university. In September, Emily’s due to start her degree, studying medicine, inspired to help others by her experience of caring for her dad. And Edwin is working towards his PhD. But I feel differently now Francis has gone. If I moved, it would just be a place to live – not a home. This is our home, where we built a life and a family together. And that was why it was so important that Francis could stay with us here, where he belonged, right until the end.”