Edwin and Gena’s Story: “It was like she was with family”
Edwin returns to our hospice to explain how Weldmar cared for his beloved Gena, and the family.
Edwin and Gena were looking forward to quite a celebration in 2021. They were both turning ninety years of age, and would have been marking seventy years of marriage.
Sadly, Gena passed away in May at Weldmar’s Inpatient Unit in Dorchester, after being diagnosed with cancer of the brain and lungs at the turn of the year.
We met Edwin, and his daughter Stella, on the lawn behind our Inpatient Unit in Dorchester, on a warm and sunny Friday afternoon, to talk about Gena, and the time that the family has spent in the care of Weldmar.
“Thank you isn’t good enough to say”, says Edwin. “Weldmar reassured us and comforted us, and gave us all the help they could possibly give. They are angels.”
Edwin and Gena on honeymoon in Staines, and at Edwin’s 89th birthday lunch
Edwin and Gena retired to Dorset in 1985 from Aldershot in Hampshire. Up until that point, they had never really taken a holiday, but life really started to open up for them. They bought a campervan, and travelled extensively around Spain and France, as well as up and down the coasts of the UK. They also spent time on a barge on the Thames.
“We’ve had a good life. That’s what Gena always said after her diagnosis in January, when we knew it wasn’t going to get better.”
Gena and Edwin appeared on The One Show in 2010 as part of the celebrations of William and Kate’s Royal Wedding, which was also their sixtieth wedding anniversary
It was just a couple of weeks after the diagnosis that Weldmar Community Nurse Lucy Moxham got in touch, and checked in every couple of weeks. “Gena was actually doing quite well at that point”, says Edwin. “Lucy said she would reduce the visits down to once a month, but then lockdown happened and she started to deteriorate, so Lucy was right there when we needed her.”
“Mum and Dad were shielding due to the cancer”, explains Stella. “Lucy was always there in the background if we needed her, ready to answer any questions. She was my ‘go to’ person. She organised anything we needed. If Mum was struggling with this or that, she was on hand to provide reassurance.”
One thing Lucy had arranged pre-lockdown was a visit to the hospice, just to see if that was a place where Gena would like to go to, should she ever feel it was needed. “We came over here, and had a coffee in the lounge, and then they came to take Gena away for a back massage”, says Edwin. “She talked about that massage for ages! She loved it, and everyone knew about it. They made her feel so special, and when they asked if she would like to come here, it was a yes – the place is beautiful.”
Gena’s condition started to deteriorate as the country went into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and she started to lose the use of her legs, and finding it difficult to swallow. It was taking it’s toll on Edwin, who was caring for her day and night, so Lucy was called, and she came straight over. Within a few hours, a hospital bed with an air specialist cushion was installed, carers were organised for three visits a day, and admission was arranged to Weldmar’s Inpatient Unit for the following Monday.
“Lucy was terrific. She took control, she got it all done, and she didn’t move until it was all organised”, Edwin told us.
Once Gena was in her room at the hospice, it was thought she would pass away within two or three days, but she responded well to the care, and was with the family for another eleven days.
Edwin says, “It meant so much to Gena to be there. It was peaceful and secure. It was the simple things – having her hair washed and her nightie changed – she would always say it felt so much better afterwards. They really made her feel at home.”
“Nothing was too much trouble”, adds Stella. “They talked to her in such a lovely, endearing way. It’s like she was with family.”
One thing she didn’t like was being on her own at night, so the nurses took special care to look in on her and make sure she was okay.
When Gena passed away, Edwin said the focus of the team at the hospice changed immediately to their wellbeing. “They had looked after us all the way through”, says Edwin. “We were fed, and they always greeted us so warmly. As soon as she died, they wanted to make sure that we were okay.”
Edwin and Stella’s journey with Weldmar continues, as both are seeing our bereavement counsellors. Again, it was something their WNC, Lucy Moxham, set up for them.
Stella told us, “We thought that Weldmar was the hospice. Once we met Lucy and she started explaining all of these services, it’s clear it is so much more than that. It’s care for the patient, and care for the family. As a family member, you’re a person, and you need help.”
Edwin says, “I will do anything I can to support Weldmar in the future. They are people with big, big hearts.”