A Weston Hospicecare day patient has praised the support offered to his wife which allows his family to continue a natural relationship.
Anthony Fowler, aged 77, visits the hospice to receive treatment and advice on a cancer diagnosis. His wife, Brenda, is his sole carer allowing Anthony to live at home.
Anthony says the support offered by the hospice to Brenda allows him to be cared for in the comfort of his own home.
He said: “What the support staff and nurses are doing for my wife to support she gives me is enabling our family stay close.
“Attending day hospice is a break from the four walls and having just one person to talk to at home all the time, it is life-enhancing.”
Anthony was asked to share some information about whether he had any children. But it soon became clear his cancer diagnosis is not the most challenging circumstance the couple have faced. The couple does have a daughter but in 1993 their son was killed in an accident involving a car as a pedestrian.
But peace was found from a conversation Anthony had with his son a decade earlier.
Anthony said: “When he was 12, I was working and we always sat around the dining room table for our evening meal and he had been watching blue peter. On this particular evening, Dr Christian Barnard was on conducting an operation to transplant a heart.
“My son shouted ‘Dad, Dad, watch this, the doctor is taking a heart from one man who has died into another man who is alive but needs a new heart.’
“My son continued ‘Wow dad, one man has been killed and they’ve taken the heart from that man to give it to another who needs it. If anything happens to me dad, you make sure you use my heart, let someone else have it.’”
The conversation Anthony had with his son meant the couple didn’t have to make a choice when presented with the option to donate their son’s organs.
Anthony continued: “Among the tragedy, we didn’t have to make a decision about what he wanted us to do with his organs, he had already told us.
“He was in Weston Hospital on life support and we asked to turn it off because he was brain dead and would never wake up. This way his organs were still functional and we could carry out his wish.”
Each year Anthony and Brenda aim to attend the British Transplant Games, a sports event for competitors who have had an organ transplant.
He said: “We try to go to the British Transplant Games every year as a donor family and we did attend for 18 consecutive years.
“One year, this lady asked ‘who are you here to support?’ which my wife replied ‘everybody, we have come as a donor family’. The lady then continued the conversation and she suddenly said ‘my husband is swimming, there he is now in the pool’.”
The only information Anthony knew about the recipient of his son’s heart was he was called Derek and was from Newcastle. But due to confidentiality restrictions in place, families and recipients of donor’s are rarely put in contact except in the event of a special request from both parties.
Anthony continued: “We established that this man was indeed the heart donor recipient from our son. Brenda and I looked at each other dumbstruck to think we were about to meet the recipient of our son’s heart.
“I went down to the pool and he was walking along the side of the pool and I said to him ‘congratulations for swimming so well’.
“He took a moment to look at me to see whether he recognised me and he then said ‘I don’t know you’ to which I replied ‘I know what is going inside of you and it is lovely to see you are doing well’.
“That man would have been dead three days after our son died as he had total heart failure and he is still alive today.”
Anthony again praised the work of the hospice and said he thoroughly enjoys the company with other patients when he attends every Tuesday.
He said: “The hospice is somewhere where I can direct my thoughts. I have been coming for seven weeks and this place is my saviour.
“It is an adrenaline boost to me every week and the food is like a five-star hotel.
“I have met some lovely people who are in the same or a similar boat to me as I am very limited to what I can do.
“I have nothing but positive words to say about the place it is a place where anything I can wish for is here.”