What a difference a week makes! Was it really just seven days ago that we were experiencing a total white out with heavy snowfall making local roads impassable, closing schools and generally bringing he district to a standstill?
But despite the heavy snow and treacherous roads, nurses from Rennie Grove Hospice Care were able to visit some extremely unwell patients at home– thanks to an amazing team of volunteer drivers who use 4x4 vehicles or special equipment such as snow chains to be safe on the roads in extreme weather conditions.
Hospice at Home Nurse Anne Graham, who works for the charity’s Night Team, explains: “We had heavy snow fall overnight on Saturday 9 December and it continued into the next day. Where I live we had over a foot of snow so I was unable to get to my office base to pick up the equipment I’d need should I be called out overnight.
“Fortunately one of our nursing team who lives locally was able to walk to our base to meet our volunteer driver Jamie who then brought the equipment to my house. He had already picked up another nurse and taken her to visit a patient that day. I was very grateful for this as it meant I would be able to go out on visits if an extreme weather driver could be provided.
“My shift commenced at 9.15pm on Sunday night and I received a call at11.25pm from a family whose father was very close to the end of his life. He was becoming unsettled and had breathing difficulties and he really needed a visit.
“I contacted the out of hours GP service and was told that there was no visiting doctor available that night and the district nursing team was trying to get to another area of the county themselves.
“Then Jamie came to the rescue! He was more than happy to assist despite being out during the day helping Rennie Grove nurses to deliver our service.
“He collected me from home at about 1.30am and we set off for the patient’s house. It was a pretty eventful journey because as well as negotiating the deep snow and abandoned vehicles we were also flagged down by some police officers and we helped them to change a tyre on a stranded vehicle. We did that thanks to the amazing array of equipment in the boot of Jamie’s car.
“When we reached my patient’s house his family were very relieved to see us. They were understanding that it had taken us quite some time to get there and were just grateful that we had been able to get there at all in such difficult conditions. Jamie told me he was happy to wait for me as long as I needed to be there and he sat out in the car in order to give the family their privacy fortified with a coffee.
“I could see that the patient was very poorly. I administered medication to relieve his symptoms and stayed with the family and supported them until 5am when the patient was settled with his family there with him. I was so glad to have been able to make that visit and to provide him with the specialist palliative care that he needed.
“If it had not been for Jamie I would not have been able to get there and telling the family that it was impossible for me to visit would have been very difficult for me as a nurse. We are so lucky to have such wonderful volunteers who complement the care we are able to deliver to our patients.
“That is a shift I will never forget and although it was a very sad time for that family I can feel proud of what was achieved and satisfaction from the care I was able to give. The patient died peacefully later that morning and the family were supported by another one of our nurses.”
Jamie Adam, a former Royal Marines Officer who uses snow chains on his car to said:
“Having already dropped an emergency pack off with Anne on the Sunday afternoon, it was easy to find her road again in the early hours of Monday morning. Luckily I was still up when the call came through, so I was able to get on the road pretty quickly.
“To make life easier getting in to the steep hilly street where her patient lived, we went up the cleared and gritted main road to the top of the hill, which allowed us to travel back downhill for the approach to the house on slippery, uncleared streets.
“The family were very glad to see Anne, and her visit was a big help, both to the dying patient, and to the extended family at such an emotional time.
“Everyone who does things for Rennie Grove, whether on the admin side, in the shops, fundraising, or as volunteers, ultimately is there to enable the nurses to provide that much-needed care to their patients.
“There couldn’t be a more textbook example of a dying patient’s urgent need for assistance, nor of the critical support provided to the patient and the family by Anne as part of the Rennie Grove team.
“If my experience and equipment were able to help her and her colleagues do their job safely in adverse conditions, then I’m delighted. It’s what we’re all there for.”
Every day and night throughout the Christmas period, Rennie Grove’s nurses will care for patients in their own homes ensuring that families can stay together at this important time of the year. And with the support of our dedicated team of amazing volunteer drivers this will remain the case – whatever the weather throws at us. Merry Christmas.