"It’s the amazing care that gets you through this"
Maggie Blagrave was admitted to the Inpatient Unit at Thames Hospice in July 2018 with little hope. But four weeks later, Maggie was strong enough to return home and receive ongoing care from the Thames Hospice Community Team and her husband of 42 years, Iain,
Maggie and Iain’s story began over 40 years ago when Maggie moved down from her hometown of Aberdeen in 1973 to become a nurse and worked at both the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Battle Hospital in Reading. One day Maggie and her friend visited the local fire brigade on an open day and it was there that she first set eyes on Iain, one of the firemen, and the rest is history! The happy couple married soon after and had two children, Stuart and Kate. After the children were born Maggie stepped away from nursing and began her career working in care homes across Berkshire, which she continued for 30 years.
In 2006 Maggie was diagnosed with breast cancer and, after receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy, was given the all clear. However, around Christmas time in 2015, Maggie began to feel unwell again and was dramatically losing weight. After going for a scan in January 2016, Maggie was diagnosed with bone cancer that affected the whole of her body. Maggie suffered for two years with agonising bone fractures and infections, and had multiple operations including a hip, femur and knee replacement. She explained: “I just have to sneeze and something breaks. I’m quite wheelchair bound; they did say to me you’ll never walk again. I shouldn’t be here but I am very strong, I’m a typical Scot!”
Maggie was very poorly with severe hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar levels) following an operation on her femur in July 2018 and was admitted to Frimley Park Hospital. It was decided to halt her treatment and Maggie was referred to Thames Hospice for end-of-life care. Maggie and her family were initially worried about coming to the Hospice, fearing that this would be their final goodbye. Iain said: “We didn’t think she would make it, she is incredible. She came in here and we all expected her to last a day or two.”
Maggie explained her fears before her stay at the Hospice: “I was frightened to come here because I thought I wouldn’t come out; I believed I was coming in here to lay in bed and die. I’m sure that’s what a lot of people think, but it’s not the case at all.”
Maggie and her family soon formed different views of the Hospice. Iain exclaimed: “It’s just amazing here, and it’s very peaceful.”
Maggie’s four week stay in the Inpatient Unit significantly improved Maggie’s health and well-being. Maggie said: “I can’t believe how much better I feel. My pain is now under control, but I think it’s the amazing care that gets you through this and they encourage you to get up and move about which makes all the difference. They’ve done so much for me; they have kept me alive.” Her husband Iain agrees, “We are all quite surprised; Maggie is still ill but the Hospice has given her a better quality of life, which for me is wonderful.”
Maggie was discharged from the Hospice to be cared for by her husband and the Thames Hospice Community Team at their home in North Ascot. The Community Team is able to provide the same high standard of nursing and compassionate care that is offered in the Hospice; making patients like Maggie feel more comfortable and at ease while in their own surroundings.
Iain said: “It was a massive relief to find out Maggie would continue to be under the care of the Hospice when she went home. To know that there are people to help me has made us decide that she will never go back into hospital. That to me is fantastic. I didn’t know all these wonderful services existed, but now I do and I can see the benefit for me personally.”
At Thames Hospice we believe that the well-being of families and carers is just as important as our patient care. Iain has also been accessing our counselling services to provide emotional, psychological and spiritual support to him. Find out more about our services here.
After producing this story, Maggie sadly passed away in March 2019.