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The Sue Ryder nurses were heroes to me

Story told by Josie’s mother, Sally Bailey.

Josie's Grandad was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago and after receiving treatment it was kept under control for many years without any further progression. Then things changed quite suddenly and the cancer was deemed to be terminal. Dad became progressively ill from the end of 2012 and lost much weight until July 2013, when after quite a sudden decline he was really very poorly.

It was at this point that Sue Ryder became involved when a lovely Sue Ryder helper happened to come round to my parents’ house to deliver some drugs for the out of hours service. She was really friendly, informative and helpful. She spent a long time talking to us which we found really helpful, especially as we had had little input from elsewhere at this stage due to the suddenness of his condition becoming so serious. We had received very little pastoral care and didn’t really know how the system worked regarding end of life care.

A few days later, after we all agreed Mum could not cope at home, even with family helping. We were lucky enough to find out that Sue Ryder St John's had a bed for Dad and he was taken there in July.

The hospice was wonderful, the moment we walked through the doors there was a sense of relief and calm. Everyone was so warm and helpful, and incredibly supportive at a very difficult time. Dad died shortly afterwards. It happened that I was the only one of the family present when my father died and I will never forget the gentle kindness and support given by the nurses as they kept me company in the last hour of Dad's life.

It was a long time later when a letter came home from Josie's middle school saying they will be having a ‘Heroes Day’ at school to raise money for charity. Josie, at 11 years old, was keen to make her own costume. Without any consultation with anyone else, she made a nurse’s uniform using an apron, a chest watch, a small hat and a laminated pass, saying that she wanted to be a Sue Ryder nurse because of the way they looked after Grandad when he was ill.

I was very touched and proud as a parent, because many of her friends went as pop stars or other celebrities that they look up to, and Josie had thought hard about choosing something that meant so much to her and was so much more worthwhile.

Josie said: ‘I wore my dad’s white t-shirt with a belt tied round to look like a nurse dress. On the dress I drew some pockets full of a notebook, a thermometer and some pills. I also made a headband with a + sign on it. This was my outfit as a Sue Ryder nurse for Help for Heroes day. I found I was the only person who didn’t dress up a celebrity or sports champion. I did it because I knew that the nurses looked after my granddad very well when he was poorly therefore they were heroes to me.’