A devoted wife who cares for her poorly husband has spoken about the challenges of being a carer.
Debra Hoomans, of Athol Grove, Chorley, met husband Steve 12 years ago and does so much for him.
She has cared for him since then, as a problem with his back meant Steve relied on a wheelchair, but they were still able to enjoy many things.
Debra, 46, said: “Our life was going out and about.
“He used to enjoy trips to Blackpool and Southport.”
But the situation became more serious in 2012 when Steve became ill.
He was diagnosed with several conditions, including end stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart and lung failure, and sleep apnoea, which causes him to stop breathing 120 times an hour when sleeping.
Mother-of-two Debra said: “Every time we saw a consultant in a hospital, he was given another death sentence. It was hell.”
In November that year, Steve stopped breathing, caused by a combination of his conditions.
He was put on a ventilator for five-and-a-half days and will have to use one every night for the rest of his life.
Doctors looked at ways to help him, but his illnesses meant they could not operate.
Debra said: “It was everything together that meant he couldn’t get better.
“He was given weeks or months to live in November 2012 and that was absolutely heart-breaking.
“We knew he would be in a wheelchair forever so we accepted that, but we didn’t expect the death sentence he was given.”
Despite so much bad news, it was that incident that led to Debra and Steve getting the help they needed.
“The doctor asked if there was anything they could do to help. I couldn’t do it on my own – I couldn’t look after him and watch him die on my own,” she said.
“They referred me to St Catherine’s Hospice and that’s the best thing that happened.”
Steve, 47, stayed at the hospice in Lostock Hall for three months, where staff stabilised him and adjusted his
He was eventually discharged and although Steve is bed-bound, he tries to keep doing the things he enjoys.
Debra said: “He is frustrated because he’s stuck in the bed. He sleeps a lot.
“He doesn’t have the conversation skills he had because he doesn’t have the concentration and he sleeps a lot.
“When he’s awake, the old Steve is still there.
“He loves football and is watching as many matches as he can stay awake for. He loves movies too.
“He often doesn’t get to watch the full match or movie though because he falls asleep.”
Debra and Steve have much more help now and carers visit their home three or four times a day.
The hospice’s befriending team also visit twice each week to sit with Steve and allow Debra to do other things, such as do some shopping or go for a coffee.
And Debra, who works as a medical secretary at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, has weekly counselling sessions with a volunteer at the hospice.
It means that they can cope with things much better and Debra is able to focus on being Steve’s wife, not just his carer.
She said: “The hardest part is to give up the care and just be the wife.
“As a husband and wife, we have got that attachment. Nothing upsets you or offends you. There is nothing he can ask that I won’t do.
“But it stops you being a wife. Most wives doesn’t wash their husbands.
“It’s simple things like holding hands or going for a walk or watching a movie together that we miss.”
Marie Curie carers also stay at their home some nights to allow Debra to get a good night’s sleep, particularly because that is when Steve is most at risk.
She said: “I go past tiredness and become exhausted.
“There’s a connection because he’s my husband and I can’t stop.
“I keep going because I love him.
“That’s what most carers do – keep going to the detriment of yourself.”
It’s now 20 months after being told that Steve did not have long to live, the couple still have no idea what the future holds.
Debra said: “They can’t give him a prognosis.
“Because everything interacts with each other, it is likely to be sudden. He is a fighter though.”
And she encouraged other carers to seek help.
Debra said: “People often feel like they are failing if they ask for help, but it’s just not true.
“Being a carer can be incredibly lonely – it can feel like you’re the only person in the world going through it. But be assured you’re not and there are people who can help share the burden.”
She added: “I don’t think I would have got through the past year without St Catherine’s. I am so thankful for all their support.”