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"A Good Death"

About: Liverpool Hospital

(as a relative),

Last year, at midday, my beautiful cousin died. She had cancer.

On the day she was admitted to Liverpool Hospital, was much like any other day in her last few months as she went through her treatment. Nothing special. Except on this day, late in the day, she fell suddenly ill; acutely ill with severe pain - like nothing she'd felt before. She was in the car in the early evening on the way to her friend's house, and was diverted to Liverpool Hospital - were she was taken straight into Emergency. No-one knew what was happening, except that she had cancer. The staff surrounded her to try and alleviate her intense pain and stabilise her. She died 18 hours later in Intensive Care.

This note is about the truly beautiful care she received as the staff battled to work out what was going on, minimise her pain, and keep her alive - all at the same time.

It is also about promises made and kept between her and her family. In the many. many months prior, we'd had time to talk about what things might be like, and during those conversations, she had asked us to make sure she didn't go through any more pain than she had to; and to never leave her alone.

We could not have achieved this without the staff, and almost every member of staff involved was amazing. Unspoken, two of us insisted on staying by her side. And the staff seemed to understood that it was important for her family to be with her; to hold her hand throughout, and to remain by her bedside.

They worked around us in the emergency bay, and did so with a mixture of intensity and good humour.

On one occasion, she was highly distressed. We comforted her. We stood by her side and re-assured her that we were there and would protect her. On hearing this, the nurse took her hand and said, "How lucky you are to have a family to care for you so much". She calmed. It was a beautiful moment. The nurse could have just as easily, shooed us away - as many have done in the past.

The same level of care to both patient and family continued through the night when she was moved to Intensive Care. More and more of the family gathered through the night - waiting for news. We took it in turns to stay at her bedside. Her nurse looking after us, as she looked after her patient. Did we need any more chairs to rest in? Could she get us some water to drink? Young, caring, compassionate nurses. She also involved us as she did things - explaining things as she went, and what the equipment was reporting.

The doctors called a few of us together a number of times through the night to clarify information, and we were encouraged to ask questions. We spoke about expectations - what was likely, and what we needed for her. We needed her not to be in pain.

The final time, the Intensive Care Consultant on duty early next morning, called the family together in a meeting room - and encouraged whoever wanted to be there to attend. He spoke about what was happening, what they were doing. He encouraged questions. He also asked us what was important.

Two things, we said. Firstly, she must not be in pain - we had promised her; and secondly, one of her sisters had just boarded a flight to get there. Was there any chance she might live long enough to see her? He understood about the pain - although she was now unconscious; he also said they would do their best for her sister.

Intensive Care rules about family and visiting hours were relaxed. They moved her into a room on her own. She died midday that day in a room surrounded by her family - all of them who wanted to be there. It was distressingly sad, and peaceful and comforting all at the same time.

We fulfilled our promise to her - to stay with her, and to minimise the pain. Whilst her sister did not get there in time, they allowed us to remain in the room for a few hours more after her last breath to say our goodbyes.

Whilst we cannot speak for her, I believe it was a good death. Our family very grateful.

Liverpool Hospital - all credit to your team. Even though it was a year ago, please know how wonderful your staff were at the time, and how important it was.

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