The charity that offers a lifeline to the ill and the incapacitated

From left: Keech patients Christina Allen and Roy Downing with Hospice at Home volunteers Eric Whitmarsh and Colin Suthers
From left: Keech patients Christina Allen and Roy Downing with Hospice at Home volunteers Eric Whitmarsh and Colin Suthers

Luton octogenarian Christina Allen wanted to die there and then when she was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer three years ago.

It’s a far cry from the way she feels now – and it’s all thanks to Keech Hospice Care.

“I didn’t want to go initially,” she admitted. “But it saved my sanity. It was altogether different from what I expected.

“Now I come once a week and I look forward to it. You meet people in the same situation and you’ve got lots in common.

“Lesley from Hospice at Home takes me shopping on Wednesdays or we go to the garden centre and have a cuppa and a chat and it’s great.

“My whole life has changed so much. Now I want to live every day I’ve got left to the full.”

Christina’s feelings are echoed by Roy Downing, 67, of Putteridge who has prostate cancer which has spread to his bones.

Roy ran the his own domestic appliance repair business until he became ill. And he too resisted going to the hospice when it was first suggested.

He said: “I thought as long as I’m alive I don’t want to go to a place that reminds me of death.

“But once you come, you’re hooked. You meet some lovely people, particularly the staff.

“You don’t realise they’ve probably got problems of their own because they never talk about them.

“I come as a day patient and it’s good to see the doctor here. He keeps an eye on me, watches my pain control and always has time to listen.”

The grandfather of four also meets up once a week with Hospice at Home volunteer Eric Whitmarsh, 74.

Eric, of Warden Hills, is a former retail credit controller. When he retired four years ago, he wanted to do something useful. He saw an ad for Hospice at Home volunteers, immediately applied and has been happily involved ever since.

“I enjoy taking Roy out,” he explained. “And I feel it’s also helping his wife Diane, who hasn’t been too well herself.

“She’s free to do whatever she wants and it makes me feel useful and appreciated.”

Roy said: “Eric and I go to various places. The Icon Hotel always recognise us and say ‘Tea for two, with extra hot water and biscuits?’ And they always ask how I am.

“We sort out most of the world one week, and the rest the next. We discuss lots of things and we’ve become friends.

“It gives me something to look forward to.

“He helps me in other ways – I can’t bend down to get my shoes on and Eric always does it for me. He says it’s all part of the service.”

Roy wishes more people were aware of what’s available. “It’s there if you need it,” he said.