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What does it mean to make the most of every living moment?

Having a safe place where family and friends can gather to spend the last precious moments of life is vital.

That’s why I am writing to you to ask for your support today – to ensure we can continue to provide a place for people like Vickie and her family to come together at this precious time.

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  Vickie Middlemost was diagnosed with breast cancer  2½  years ago, and after a long journey, died at the Hibiscus Hospice IPU on 11 January 2017 surrounded by friends and family.  She was 50.  This is her story.

Vickie with her dream car

Vickie met her husband Terry 20 years ago at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and they moved to New Zealand with their children Brett, Michelle and Bradley in 2002. Their youngest son Mathew was born here. After her diagnosis, Vickie felt that she wanted to share Africa with her younger boys and planned a trip that would take them to Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and Matusodonna National Park. Victoria Falls held a special place in Vickie’s heart, having met Terry there years earlier - he later proposed to her on the front veranda of the Victoria Falls Hotel. She wanted her children to meet her family and to get a feel for the African bush, building memories that would last a lifetime.

The trip fulfilled all of Vickie’s wishes, and despite coming back with positivity for the future, received devastating news soon after her return - she was re-diagnosed with cancer in both breasts and sadly it had also advanced to her bones.

Vickie faced a challenging time, she had four children and struggled with the enormity of what would happen to her family. She was referred to Hibiscus Hospice by her GP in August 2016 and after her initial assessment, was offered support through counselling and regular visits from the community nursing team.

As her health deteriorated Vickie was admitted to the Hibiscus Hospice In Patient Unit with close friend Tash Bryhn at her side. As a previous employee of Hibiscus Hospice, Tash knew it was the best place for Vickie to be. “Vickie was in a fair amount of pain, she was travelling from Gulf Harbour to Auckland Hospital every couple of weeks which was not ideal” says Tash. “I knew she was trying to hide the pain from us, and I just wanted her to have that taken care of – to have the opportunity to just be and not worry about the getting through each day”.

With Tash for support, Terry arrived two hours later to find Vickie had been introduced to everyone and made friends already. “Vickie was such a bubbly person, she was always surrounded by people” Terry recalled. “She felt at home on her first visit, it was lovely to arrive and see her so settled with her name on the door and her pictures up”. Vickie had a few instructions visitors had to abide by, each person who came had to bring peanut M&M’s and they had to make sure there were lots of laughs.

Doctor Jenny Cartwright looked after Vickie, “Jenny was brilliant” says Terry, “Vickie was in a fair amount of pain and she received the best in pain management, any prescriptions she needed were made available. We had the freedom to come and go whenever we needed” says Terry, “I was able to stay over with her and there was always a hot meal ready for us. “The support we received was incredible”.

During her last 9 months, Vickie wanted to make sure she ticked all the boxes. She had always wanted to own a convertible and was very proud to be driving around Gulf Harbour in her pride and joy (pictured). She planned two holidays for family and close friends; one to the Gold Coast and the other to Queenstown. Their home became an important focus, she wanted it set up so the family could be comfortable for the rest of their lives, and during the festive season it was covered in lights inside and out. Her final wish was to celebrate Christmas and New Year with her family and see her first grandchild enter the world.

On the day she died, over video conference from her Hospice bed, she met her granddaughter, Lara Sophia. Sophia was Vickie’s middle name.

Looking back at their hospice journey, Terry talks of the support they received “There was such honesty and transparency around Vickie’s health, in the last week we were told, Vickie is not going to leave here this time. Ruth, her community nurse became a firm friend, even convincing Vickie to come into the In Patient Unit for the last time – something Tash and I could not do”.

"We were given the opportunity to travel our journey with our support network of friends and family. Some days it felt like a gathering, we could laugh and share jokes and then have a few moments to ourselves for a cry. Nobody ever corrected our behaviour. This journey has brought our family closer together – which is what Vickie would have wanted."

At this moment, there are other people in our community just like Vickie – people who need our support at every stage of their journey. Please consider making a donation today and help us to be there for our patients when they need it most.

With best wishes

Clare Bridle
Fundraising & Marketing Manager

P.S.  Any donation you are able to make, big or small, will make a huge difference to our patients and their caregivers so please send your donation today.

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