In the near seven weeks that Martin Smythies was cared for at St Catherine’s Hospice, he was able to enjoy precious time with his wife and three children in a place they came to call ‘home.’
From ordering takeaways and having a family picnic, to accompanying his little boy on his first day at school, the family were able to create special memories during a very difficult time, thanks to the support they received from the hospice.
As Lorraine prepares to take on the charity’s Moonlight and Memories Walk, on July 6, she explains how the specialist care along with the ‘small touches’ provided by St Catherine’s made all the difference throughout Martin’s final weeks.
The 39-year-old from Leyland says: “People think of St Catherine’s as a place you come to die, and they think it must be all doom and gloom. But Martin knew what to expect because his uncle was cared for at the hospice, and it’s such an upbeat and happy place.
“The staff do anything they can for you. They even booked me in for a massage with one of the therapists when I was feeling stressed. “It’s little touches like that which make such a big difference. You don’t realise how much you need that kind of support until you get it.
“They think about the whole family too. When it was our son Louie’s first day at school, St Catherine’s arranged for a taxi to take us all there, with Martin in his wheelchair, so that we could spend the morning together and so that Martin could take him to school on his first day. That meant a lot to him. The hospice hairdresser also gave Louie a haircut ready for his first day.
“Louie and I stayed over throughout the week and Martin’s 14-year-old son Cameron and my 20-year-old daughter Chloe came to stay over at the weekends, and we used to have little picnics in the hospice.
“We even held a big teddy bears’ picnic in the Garden Room at the hospice when my family came to visit. Martin didn’t want his nieces and nephews seeing him in bed, so we threw a party which was really special. It tired Martin out, but he loved it; all the children were pushing him around in his wheelchair. We made lots of happy memories at St Catherine’s.
“He was also very much an outdoor person, so he loved that he could open the patio doors from his room at St Catherine’s onto the grounds and go out in his wheelchair. It helped him keep his independence, which was very important to him.
“St Catherine’s made the last few weeks we had together really happy. Now I just what to do anything I can to help raise money so that they can help more families like ours.”
The couple first met aged 10 and went through school together, and reunited when they kept accidentally meeting in pubs around Leyland and Chorley. Martin carried out motorways maintenance before studying at university to become a counsellor.
Lorraine says: “Whenever Martin was in a room, everyone was laughing.
“Martin was all for his kids. Wherever he went, Louie wasn’t far behind, and Martin called him his wingman. They were so close. He enjoyed taking Cameron to play football at the weekend and they used to get a sneaky McDonald’s. He and Chloe would help each other out with their school and university homework. So it meant a lot to him that the children could visit whenever they wanted at St Catherine’s.”
Martin had suffered with heart failure for years and had a pace maker, but he fell ill in October 2017. Doctors initially put it down to IBS, but after he lost a lot of weight and continued to suffer with pain, an x-ray found he had a twisted bowel.
By July 2018 he was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer, and in August doctors said it wasn’t treatable. He was in hospital for three days before coming to St Catherine’s where he died on September 13, aged just 38.
Lorraine will be striding out in the hospice’s poignant 10-mile Moonlight and Memories Walk on July 6.
Other members of Martin’s family are also pulling together in support of St Catherine’s - his step sister is training for a 10k run; his mum and step dad are taking on the hospice’s abseil challenge; and the family is organising a fly fishing competition for later this year, as this was one of Martin’s favourite hobbies.
Emma Jacovelli, head of community engagement at St Catherine’s Hospice, says: “We’re so pleased St Catherine’s could be there for Martin, Lorraine and the children when they needed us and helped them to create precious memories together. “
To join in the meaningful Moonlight and Memories Walk, which starts and finishes at St Catherine’s Hospice in Lostock Hall, visit www.stcatherines.co.uk or call 01772 629171.