Annie reflects on 36-year career at Pilgrims Hospices
Annie Hogben has worked for Pilgrims Hospices since 1986. Initially a nurse, she then helped to set up the Therapy Centres, and is now based within the charity’s Education team, developing volunteer roles that support patients, carers and bereaved loved ones.
In Pilgrims’ 40th birthday year, she reflects on her memories with the local hospice charity.
I started work in Canterbury hospice as a State Enrolled Nurse in May 1986. I was so keen to join the hospice team after hearing a lecture by Cicely Saunders, one of the early founders of the hospice movement, and felt it was the right place for me. When I came to the hospice, there was purely a ward, with the availability of 20 beds for patients across east Kent. Our Medical Director did home visits to support patients in the community, and as always we worked very closely with GPs, district nurses and hospital staff, to support palliative patients and their families in our local communities.
A day centre was opened a year or so later, and this operated five days a week for our community patients. This enabled patients to have an overview of their symptoms as well as engage in a variety of social and creative activities, whilst providing some worthwhile respite for their families. These centres have always been so positive, enhancing the wellbeing of patients of various ages and situations, with much shared joy and laughter.
Pilgrims has grown and developed dramatically to meet the needs of the people of east Kent, but always with the wonderful philosophy to support and come alongside patients, families and bereaved loved ones throughout the latter part of their lives.
I consider it a real privilege to have been part of this amazing team of staff and volunteers for so long.
Allied Health Care Professionals have always been such an important part of the team supporting patients, families and bereaved relatives at Pilgrims, as have volunteers, who were present on the ward, supporting staff in those early days. It is so lovely that part of my current role has been to be part of the team to reintroduce Ward Support Volunteers, which adds great value to patients and their loved ones.
I left the hospice in 1989 to continue my training and then to work on an oncology unit, the Mountbatten Centre at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital. I returned to Canterbury hospice in 1992 as a Registered Nurse on the ward. Shortly after this, the specialist community nursing team were introduced, to support community patients and families across the whole of east Kent. This invaluable service now runs throughout all three hospice sites.
I was fortunate to move into the role of Senior Staff Nurse on the ward, and throughout that time experienced many celebrations with patients on the ward, including weddings, anniversaries and other important events. The addition of the Thanet hospice allowed the growth of support services for the people of east Kent, enabling access to services in the local area and increasing the amount of beds available for those requiring in-patient care.
After having my family, I was on duty on nights for a couple of years, before finally leaving the Canterbury hospice in 2000 to move to the Ashford hospice, to set up the day services centre there. Over these past years, Pilgrims has grown and developed dramatically to meet the needs of the people of east Kent, but always with the wonderful philosophy to support and come alongside patients, families and bereaved loved ones throughout the latter part of their lives. I consider it a real privilege to have been part of this amazing team of staff and volunteers for so long.
Pilgrims Hospices opened in Canterbury in June 1982, followed by Thanet in 1992, and Ashford in 2001. That means we have a lot to celebrate this year!
If you’d like to join us to celebrate our special birthdays by donating you can visit our JustGiving or Facebook pages.
Pilgrims Hospices cares for thousands of local people each year, free of charge, during the most challenging time in their lives. They offer care and support in people’s own homes, in the community and in their inpatient units as well as running a 24-hour advice line.
27th April 2022
Barry’s super beard shave for Pilgrims Hospices
Barry Ash from Hawkinge, near Folkestone, set out to raise £5,000 for Pilgrims Hospices by completing a superhero-themed beard shave on Saturday 23 April 2022.
Barry is fundraising in memory of his mum, Carole, who was cared for at the Canterbury hospice in January 2022. Carole was from West Hougham, near Dover, where she lived with Barry’s dad, John.
Inspired by the support his family received, Barry wants to give back to the local charity so that others can benefit from its vital, compassionate care.
Barry said: “From the moment Mum was referred to Pilgrims, the care was outstanding – from pain management, to her personal care, including brushing her hair and teeth, to our care as a family. They spoke to us about what Mum was going through, and reassured us so we weren’t scared of what was going to happen. Staff were always on hand to answer any questions we had.
“I used to think that Pilgrims was just a place to die, but now I see a much bigger picture; they care for everyone, both patients and families, and so much more.”
Barry and his wife, Laura, love all things superheroes. To say thank you for the care Carole received, they organised a themed fundraiser – on Saturday 23 April 2022, Barry dressed as Superman and had his beard shaved off outside Get Ready Comics in Rochester. Paul Blakeborough, who owns the shop, and his team, helped to organise the day. Barry’s wife, Laura, joined him as Wonder Woman.
Barry continued: “This was a chance to raise money for Pilgrims, have some fun and bring smiles to people’s faces at the same time. Mum knew what we were planning; she loved the idea and we know she was smiling down on us on the day.
“We started off walking up and down the high street and the reactions were just awesome; not just from kids, but from their parents as well. Everyone wanted a picture with us! They asked what we were doing, and as soon as I said that we were raising money and awareness for Pilgrims everyone put their hands into their pockets and gave what they could. It was so nice.
“The beard shave started at 12:30; Shayne Kingham was the kind man who gave up his time to do the deed.”
Barry and Laura have raised £4,175 of his target thanks to the generosity of work clients, friends, family and members of the public, and his JustGiving page will remain open for further donations now that he has completed his challenge.
He hopes that alongside raising money, he has also increased awareness of Pilgrims’ services within the community.
He added: “They say that you remember people by how they made you feel. The staff and nurses at the Canterbury hospice left a long-lasting impression; we are full of gratitude and thankfulness for everything they did for us in the final stages of Mum’s illness.
“The kindness we were all shown in Mum’s last few days was phenomenal; it is something we will never forget.”
Each year, Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to thousands of people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.
1st December 2021
Kate’s fantastic festive fundraising in memory of dad Dennis
Kate Johnson from Herne Bay supports Pilgrims Hospices to give back to the charity that cared for her dad, Dennis Beer, at the end of his life.
On Sunday 28 November 2021, Kate joined hundreds of fellow festive fundraisers at Santas on the Bay! to remember her much-loved dad and help to ensure that other families can benefit from Pilgrims’ vital and compassionate care.
‘He was valued as a person and that image will stay with me a lifetime.’
Dennis was an antique furniture restorer from Teynham; he died peacefully at home, aged 71, on 20 January 2017.
Kate said: “Dad fought a long and courageous battle against bowel cancer, exhausting all surgeries available to him and enduring multiple rounds of gruelling chemotherapy. At this point, the doctors explained that his liver wasn’t able to cope with any more treatment and that it was time to stop. It’s difficult to know how to just stop trying to get better; how do you physically and emotionally support somebody to die? It’s definitely not something I felt confident doing – I was used to my dad looking after me, not the other way around.
“Dad was a real home bod. When he was told that he was dying, he chose to receive support from Pilgrims’ Hospice at Home team. I moved back home in the final ten days leading up to his death, so that I could support my mum as she cared for Dad, but mostly so that I didn’t miss any time with him.
“I’m so grateful that Dad was able to stay in the home that he loved, surrounded by the people he loved, at the hardest time our family has ever faced. My mum ran an intensive care unit before she retired and has vast and comprehensive medical knowledge, but says there is a huge difference between caring for patients when you’re behind a uniform and supporting the man you love as he dies. Watching Dad deteriorate knocked Mum’s confidence in her ability to care for him; the hospice staff helped to build her back up again, holding her hand and ‘having her back’ so that she felt strong enough to care for Dad.
“As a daughter, it’s very strange watching your dad die. We’d always been close; he was my hero. He was big, strong, loved us fiercely and protected us. Suddenly, he was tired, in pain, desperately sad at the thought of leaving us and needed us to look after him. It’s very hard to do that when the pain of what’s ahead feels like it’s crushing you.
“The Hospice at Home team were incredible. They seemed to know exactly when we needed them, and would always arrive with a big smile, often a warm hug and always lots of reassuring words. They treated Dad with respect and dignity – speaking to him about what he wanted, making sure that he was in the driving seat and that he had choices rather than just doing things to him. They’d laugh and joke, and in those final days they became part of our family. Dad would always thank them profusely for their time and generosity and appreciated every minute of them helping to care for him.
“On the evening of 20th January 2017, the nurses arrived to see how we were all getting on. By this time, Dad was on a syringe driver and unable to communicate with us. The nurses popped the kettle on and we talked about how Dad was doing before heading into the ‘sunroom’ to sit with him. As I walked into the room, I knew his breathing was different and that something was happening. The nurses told Mum and I that Dad was dying and helped us move the bed away from the wall so that we could be either side of him, holding his hand, stroking his face and telling him we loved him as he slipped away. They stayed in the room with us until Dad had gone and comforted us whilst the magnitude of what had happened sunk in.
“Shortly after, the nurses asked us if we’d like them to dress Dad in some of his favourite clothes. We left the room for a short while and when we came back, they had dressed him in a beautiful checked shirt, sprayed his deodorant on his clothes, laid him down so he looked peaceful and snipped a sprig of flowers from a nearby plant, which they laid on his pillow, next to his head. I’ve never been so touched and overwhelmed in my life – he looked and smelt like my dad should. Even after his death, the hospice team treated him with the utmost respect and care; he was valued as a person and that image will stay with me a lifetime.”
Pilgrims helps to make life more ‘normal’
Kate’s grandmother, Elisabeth Beer, was also cared for in the Canterbury hospice in 2003. She remembers visiting her at Christmas that year:
“When we turned up, she wasn’t in her room but was instead in the chapel singing Christmas carols. We could hear her singing from outside the door. She would have been so grateful to have been able to visit church at Christmas and share a service with others; Pilgrims helped to make life just that little bit more normal for her.”
Kate’s festive fundraising journey
Kate always planned to take part in a Pilgrims’ fundraising event but knew it would mean getting fit. She said: “I’m currently in the process of joining Kent Police; as part of the interview process, I have to meet certain fitness criteria so I’ve started running.
“When I saw Santas on the Bay! pop up in my email, I sent a copy to my boyfriend joking that I’d do it because it was an excellent opportunity to raise money for Pilgrims – plus it would give me motivation to keep my fitness levels up. Next thing I know, I get an email thanking me for my entry and here I am!”
Kate is supported in her fundraising by her mum, Gill, her children, Millie (7) and Harry (3), her boyfriend, Anthony, who runs with her every week, and her friends. Her dad remains a constant source of motivation, too:
“I wouldn’t have wanted to let him down by backing out of this! My mum says how proud he’d be of me.”
On the day itself, Kate and Anthony joined hundreds of fellow Santas who braved arctic conditions along Herne Bay seafront.
Kate added: “It was such a lovely event and so touching to see so many people braving the freezing cold to raise money for such a worthy cause. I’ll definitely be signing up again!”
She continued: “The pain of losing somebody you love is unbearable. When that person needs you to help them die, how do you do that? Pilgrims helped us to help my dad pass comfortably, peacefully and with respect. It’s so important to me that other families are offered the services and support that were so vital to us during that time.
“I want to raise awareness of such an amazing cause, encourage others to sign up for similar events, have fun and learn about other people’s stories and the people who mean so much to them. Most importantly, I want to raise money so that others can experience the care my dad received.
“Finally, it’s just a lovely way to remind everyone that Dennis Beer was very much here. A big, talented man with rough hands from working hard. A principled, funny, problem solver who had a story for every occasion. He was the best dad I could have ever had, and I will always be so proud to be his daughter.
“He was a real person, he was loved so, so dearly and he will never be forgotten by us. It’s so nice to be able to speak about him and say his name.”
Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,500 people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.
12th October 2021
Hospice nurse retires after almost 50 years of caring service
Sue Clark from Canterbury has enjoyed a long career in nursing; starting out as a children’s nurse, she then moved to caring for elderly patients. Finally, Sue spent the last 15 years of her career at Pilgrims Hospices, supporting adults approaching the end of life.
Now, aged 65, she is looking forward to retirement with a sense of gratitude and appreciation that has come from working with hospice patients.
Originally from Bracknell, Berkshire, at 16 years old Sue became a nursing cadet. She trained in orthopaedic and general nursing at Queen Mary’s Hospital for Children, qualifying in 1978.
Sue moved to east Kent with her best friend from nursing school, whose father managed the local cottage hospitals and got Sue a job at Herne Hospital. She also worked at Nunnery Fields Hospital in Canterbury, and further afield in south-east London, before moving to Kent and Canterbury Hospital in the 1990s.
She said: “I initially wanted to be an air stewardess! But I really loved caring for people and became interested in children’s nursing. It’s funny – I started out working with children and ended up at the other side of life.”
At Pilgrims, we care for the patient and the whole family. It’s not like in hospital; we can get involved, we have the time to get to know families.
In between, Sue did some community nursing work with Marie Curie, supporting patients with terminal illnesses. This was her first experience of working in palliative care, and in 2006 she joined Pilgrims as a Registered General Nurse (RGN).
In 2019, she gave up her registration and spent her last two years of service working as a Healthcare Assistant (HCA).
Sue continued: “At Pilgrims, we care for the patient and the whole family. It’s not like in hospital; we can get involved, we have the time to get to know families. We’re also able to provide aftercare for loved ones, too.
“I love being hands on with basic nursing care, and the HCA role enabled me to do even more of this so I really enjoyed it.”
Working at Pilgrims, you realise that life is so short. I just want to enjoy retirement with my husband and make the most of every moment.
Kate White, Head of Nursing at Pilgrims, said: “To dedicate 50 years to nursing is a huge achievement and shows strength of character. I cannot imagine how many patients and their families have been cared for by Sue in all this time!
“We wish her all the very best for a well-deserved retirement and thank her for her commitment to Pilgrims.”
Now that she has retired, Sue is looking forward to catching up with friends, spending time with family and planning a few mini-breaks.
She added: “Working at Pilgrims, you realise that life is so short. I just want to enjoy retirement with my husband and make the most of every moment.”
Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,500 people in east Kent coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity supports patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress. Care is provided from three hospice sites in Thanet, Canterbury and Ashford as well as in patients’ own homes. To offer these services to patients and their families the charity must raise £11 million each year from the generous local community.