Sue Blakeney is a state enrolled nurse for Hospice at Home West Cumbria, and last Sunday celebrated her 30th work anniversary with us! We would like to thank Sue for her dedication and commitment to hospice over the last 30 years, and we are sure that many families who have met Sue would like to join us! To mark the occasion we asked Sue to share her story of her time with hospice, and how things have changed for her over these past 30 years.

My nursing career started in 1977, in Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester. In 1981 after a fire in the theatres at West Cumberland Hospital, there was a call out for theatre nurses, I applied and got the job and moved to West Cumbria. I spent the next 7 years working there, I had my daughter Sarah during this time, and then in 1990 I left to have my son David.

When David was only 9 months old, I applied for a job as a hospice nurse with Hospice at Home West Cumbria. I was interviewed and taken on by Margaret Dowling who was one of the founding members of the charity, which had only been set up the previous year in 1987.

My first patient was a gentleman in Whitehaven with Multiple Sclerosis. I was part of the team that cared for him for nearly 12 months. The gentleman had no family, and so he relied on care through the night which could only be provided by Hospice at Home West Cumbria.  After caring for him for so long, and knowing he had no family, I also attended his funeral service.

I remember during my first winter at hospice there was a lot of heavy snow across Cumbria, so much so that I was unable to drive one night shift to care for my patient. Shortly after a phone call to Margaret to explain this, a police car pulled up outside my house – they had came to take me safely to my patient, and then returned in the morning to take me home again, as arranged by Margaret. Sometimes logistics can cause problems, as we are working in a very scattered and rural area; I have been lost a few times and had to ring the family for directions! I often encounter the Sellafield morning traffic after a nightshift in Millom too, which can add extra time on to my journey home.

Even after so many years in my role I still get ‘first night nerves’ when I am going to see a new patient. Where am I going? Will I be able to find the house easily enough? What will the family be like? It’s very different to turning up for a shift on a hospital ward and can be a little bit daunting sometimes, going straight into a patients home having never met them before. Throughout my 30 years of being a hospice nurse I have met some truly amazing people.  I feel it is a privilege to be welcomed into people’s homes to care for them and their loved ones through this journey. I love to listen to stories that they share and see photographs of the patients I am caring for – as often the person in the bed isn’t a reflection of who they are, and what they have achieved in their life. Many patients and families find comfort in sharing their memories with me in the early hours, and I have shed many tears with them – both happy and sad over the years.

I am proud to have worked for Hospice at Home West Cumbria for the last 30 years, and I have no intention of hanging up my uniform yet!  There is nothing else like it in West Cumbria, and no one else that provides the end of life care that we do. It can be very hard and upsetting at times, but I am so proud to be able to give our patients the most dignified and comfortable end of life care possible.

Sue Blakeney.