Muriel Atkinson's Story

My name is Muriel Atkinson and I had been married to Gerry for almost 40 years before his death in May 2016. We’d been on holiday to Lake Como in September 2015 when I knew something was seriously wrong with Gerry’s health. His natural stoicism to pain disappeared during this last holiday and on our return, an immediate appointment with the Doctor was followed up with tests and X-rays etc.

Although suspected, it wasn’t until after Christmas that the results were confirmed. All the examinations and symptoms revealed the very worst: Mesothelioma – asbestosis. Incurable and terminal.

At that point everything was fast-tracked by the NHS in relation to treatment and support. We were advised by the nursing support department that we were entitled to compensation as mesothelioma is an industrial disease and duly gave us names of specialist solicitors who deal in such cases.

Ours visited us in January 2016 when Gerry was still relatively comfortable and could relate his work history and where he had been exposed to the asbestos. As the weeks progressed, the pain got steadily worse and it was recommended that he went into St Leonard’s Hospice for pain management. Although only planned for 2 weeks, Gerry was an in-patient for 6 weeks, during which time he had the most amazing care. He eventually asked to be allowed home – he knew he was dying, time was short and he wanted to be with his family and friends. I was asked how I felt about him leaving the Hospice to come home. “Terrified“ was my response. “How am I going to cope on my own after I’ve seen what wonderful care your team have provided 24/7?” But I knew we all wanted him home despite our reservations. I was told not to worry, the Hospice would be behind me every step of the way. And by golly they were!!

Even before he’d left, planning and support were already in place. His last month was made as easy as possible given the awful outcome that was to follow. I cannot ever thank the Hospice, Hospice@Home, MacMillan Nurses, Practice Nurses, Carers, Sitters and neighbours enough for their support, dedication and love that was given to us during this journey.

In the meantime the solicitor working on Gerry’s behalf had contacted the Hospice, and with the information provided, was able to cost his nursing and include it in the compensation claim. When it was finally settled, it gave me a lot of pleasure that as part of Gerry’s legacy, I was able to pay it over to the Hospice and know that this will be used for the care of another needful patient.

Gerry sadly passed away on the 7th May 2016 and in October of 2018, I was accepted as a volunteer Receptionist at the Hospice. It is a place of dedication, love, compassion and support and is not to be feared. Thank you St Leonard’s Hospice.

Gerry and I on the way back from our holiday in Lake Como, Sept 2015.