Margaret Ferris’s worst fear was that her son Daley would die alone. 38-year-old Daley had end stage liver failure after battling an alcohol addiction for more than two decades – and he was homeless.
At St Luke’s we believe everyone in our community should have equal access to palliative and end of life care. Daley was referred to our Homelessness Project Team by staff at the hostel where he was staying. Daley didn’t trust easily, but over time he and his St Luke’s case worker Alison developed a respectful relationship. Daley died at the Hospice in April 2019, in a place he felt safe, and with his Mum by his side. Here is Daley’s story, told by his Mum Margaret:
“Two weeks before he passed away, Alison and a Macmillan nurse went to visit him where he was staying in Crewe. They could see he wasn’t coping very well and he had lost loads and loads of weight. He asked them how long he had and they said about three weeks. He had a little cry and Alison gave him a hug and he said ‘you’d better phone me Mum.’
“Alison was like a lifeline for me. I used to talk with Daley every day on the phone, and if he didn’t answer I used to panic. I’d ring Alison and she would check on him for me. It was like a weight had been lifted. I did feel guilty because I should have had him at home with me, but I couldn’t have looked after him and he wouldn’t have let me help him.
“I was so worried that St Luke’s wouldn’t have space for him when the time came. I had a big fear of him passing away on his own in his sleep, I just wanted somebody with him. I knew as soon as he got to St Luke’s that everything would be ok.
“I used to ring up all the time and the nurses would chat to me for ages. I used to worry that I was a nuisance by calling but they said that I could call anytime, even in the middle of the night and a nurse would always be there to talk.
“On Easter Monday the nurses called me to say that he was very poorly. Alison stayed with him until either me or his Dad could get there. The drive was awful, I just couldn’t get there quick enough. They were all absolutely brilliant, they couldn’t do enough for us. His brother came from Newcastle and they gave us a couple of visitor rooms where we could get our head down if we wanted.
“It was so dignified and they treated Daley like a person. I think that was why he liked it there because they treated him so well, they didn’t look at his lifestyle or judge him for that. It made those last few days so special. We wouldn’t have been able to spend that time with him in the hospital. It was like being at home with him. It was dignified, it was quiet and they kept him calm. I’m just so glad he got that care. In the end I could actually do things for him as his Mum, it just felt natural.
“In the early hours of Friday 26th April his Dad sat with him while I had a little sleep. There was no change in him so his Dad then went for a rest and I was on my own with Daley. I said ‘I’m back’ and less than a minute later he just stopped breathing, and it was just me and him. I believe that he knew I was there and he waited for me to come back.
“Daley was very privileged to die at St Luke’s. He knew that. He couldn’t have got anything better.”