A woman has returned to the hospice that cared for her late husband to volunteer on Christmas Day.
June Spreckley’s journey with Ashgate Hospice in Chesterfield began when her husband Pete was given end-of-life care at the inpatient ward after being diagnosed with an incurable form of blood cancer. He passed away in February 2022 at the age of 71.
Before his death, Mr Spreckley had encouraged Mrs Spreckley to volunteer at the hospice to give back to the community that had provided her husband with exceptional care in his final days.
Reflecting on her experience at Ashgate, Mrs Spreckley said, “The care was invaluable to both Pete and I. The patience, kindness, and dedication to making Pete comfortable can’t be praised highly enough. Everyone should be able to have the death my Pete had—free of pain and in such good hands.”
Mr Spreckley was admitted to Ashgate twice, first for support with symptom and pain management before receiving end-of-life care.
Describing the hospice staff as “remarkable”, Mrs Spreckley shared how she hopes to honour her husband’s memory through her volunteering: “I feel that I’m fulfilling what Pete wanted and I’m giving something back to the hospice who cared for my husband and saw him leave this world free of pain and at peace. To be able to have that as a memory is something to cherish.
“I get a sense of deep satisfaction by volunteering, knowing that hopefully I’m able to help in any way to emulate the wonderful care my husband had,” she said.
Despite the challenging circumstances, Mrs Spreckley praised the staff at Ashgate for their attentiveness and continuous support: “The team treated Pete with dignity and compassion and spoke to him every time they entered our room.
“This kindness was extended to myself and our family throughout this period and I was amazed by these acts of compassion.”
Mrs Spreckley was joined by retired ambulance service worker Lynne North, 66, who volunteered at Ashgate on Christmas Day for the first time.
“I usually see my children and grandchildren on Christmas morning, but they’re getting older now, so I’ve explained to them how important it is that I volunteer instead this year,” Ms North said.
“They completely understand and wish the best for me. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone for a late lunch and then spending the rest of the day with them.”
As ward volunteers, Mrs Spreckley and Ms North were responsible for taking meal orders, serving food and drinks, and offering support to patients. The pair enjoyed bringing festive cheer to the patients at Ashgate.
“The hospice is a lovely, happy place to be a part of; I love talking to patients and their families, especially when you see them feel well enough to return home,” Ms North said.
“This will be my first time working at Christmas, so I’m not too sure what to expect, but I think it will just be like a normal day—filled with lots of sparkle.”
Ashgate Hospice provides palliative care and bereavement support to the people of North Derbyshire free of charge.
The facility aspires to be a centre of excellence that works as part of the wider health system to ensure people depart from this world without pain and in peace.
Even with volunteers, Ashgate Hospice must raise £9 million a year to keep running. The Christmas appeal hoped to bring in £40,000 to support families facing their last Christmas together.
Catherine Maddy, head of marketing and communications at Ashgate, said, “We rely on the generosity of our local community. We rely on people running marathons and holding bake sales to raise that £9 million.
“There are some real conversations and open dialogue that we need to have about how we fund end-of-life care in this country.”
Mrs Spreckley said she will “forever be grateful” for the compassionate care Ashgate provided her husband. Sharing her thoughts about volunteering, Mrs Spreckley said, “As volunteers, we feel valued that we are contributing something to society while meeting new people and making new friends in a wonderful environment.
“I anticipate that alongside all the care and diligence the nursing team will deliver, our staff and volunteers will engage with patients and one another to bring the festive spirit to Ashgate this year.”
Click here if you would like to volunteer for Ashgate Hospice.
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