Virtual reality appeal raises thousands for Pilgrims Hospices
Thanks to the efforts of our community of supporters, Pilgrims Hospices raised £14,874.72 for our Virtual Reality appeal.
Virtual reality (VR) is a technology accessed through a headset and headphones, which immerses someone within a 3D and 360-degree video to give them a sense of being physically present in that environment.
For example, through VR, someone could experience diving in the Great Barrier Reef or relaxing on a tropical beach.
Improving quality of life
The latest trials of virtual reality within a healthcare setting have shown an improvement in the quality of life for terminally ill patients by helping ease their anxiety, breathlessness, fatigue, and even reducing pain.
Through our Immerse Your Senses Appeal, we raised enough money to introduce a VR system at each of our hospices in Canterbury, Thanet and Ashford.
The system was used across all of our healthcare and wellbeing settings, including our Therapy Centres, in-patient units, and even in people’s homes, which benefitted a wide range of our patients.
Ann Morris attended our Therapy Centre at Pilgrims Hospice Thanet, where she benefitted from the VR technology we offered for hospice patients.
What made this VR system particularly special is that it included its own camera so we could record and personalise the experiences we offered to our patients, whether that was a local place they were particularly fond of, or a special occasion they were unable to attend.
In this way, someone who was used to walking their dog along a beach but hadn’t been able to more recently, could once again experience this through virtual reality at Pilgrims.
Due to the simplicity of the system, we were even able to train our patients’ families to record and deliver these magical moments for their loved ones.
This sort of bespoke experience enabled our patients to escape the boundaries of their illness and enjoy treasured moments once again.
Thanks to the generous support of our local community, we were able to provide this incredible technology on each of our sites for two years.
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.
5th March 2020
Early referral to hospice care helps Hamid to live well
When Hamid Hajilou from Broomfield near Herne Bay was diagnosed with stomach cancer, little things that most people take for granted – including walking, sleeping and cooking – became a struggle. Thankfully, an early referral to Pilgrims Hospices helped him get back on his feet and resume the active lifestyle he has always enjoyed.
Hamid worked as a car sales manager for more than 20 years, with previous experience in the retail trade and catering industry. He retired in April 2019, but after returning from a family holiday later that year he began to feel unwell. Hamid started experiencing sciatica-like leg pain in October 2019. It became difficult for him to stand and impacted his ability to cook, a hobby he loves: “I’m a big Rick Stein fan, I could watch his shows for hours!” The pain was so debilitating that he didn’t know where to turn.
I can’t speak highly enough about Pilgrims, not only of the staff but of the concept – they just listen to you. My life changed when I got to know the hospice team. They asked about my wellbeing and mental health, including my spirituality, everything. I’m not religious but I really appreciated it, just the fact they cared enough to check.
Hamid’s wife Peyma is a Maternity Matron at East Kent Hospitals. She said: “I had my medical head on and I knew that his pain wasn’t being managed. We didn’t know what to do, but because I have an NHS background I was able to navigate and help us access the care he needed. Once Pilgrims was involved, everything changed within two weeks.”
Hamid added: “The Pilgrims care team are angels, particularly the hospice nurse who saw me initially and the consultant Dominique who prescribed me the correct pain relief – she spent two hours with Peyma and I in between her already full day.”
Hamid was diagnosed with stomach cancer in December 2019, which has spread to his back. He had radiotherapy treatment at Kent and Canterbury Hospital on 31 December 2019 then transferred to the Canterbury hospice as an inpatient, before being discharged nine days later. His pain was managed so successfully by Pilgrims that he could stand up out of a wheelchair, something which hadn’t seemed possible before his referral. He was anxious about going home in case things took a downward turn again, but Pilgrims is continuing to support him.
Hamid said: “I’d been in so much pain that I didn’t even care about the cancer, I just wanted the pain to stop. When I was offered a room in the hospice, that seemed dreamy. I sobbed with relief.”
Peyma added: “I couldn’t believe my eyes; it was like five-star accommodation.”
Hamid continued: “I can’t speak highly enough about Pilgrims, not only of the staff but of the concept – they just listen to you. My life changed when I got to know the hospice team. They asked about my wellbeing and mental health, including my spirituality, everything. I’m not religious but I really appreciated it, just the fact they cared enough to check. Any food I wanted was cooked to order and hospice nurses would come and talk to me. One nurse, Seema, gave me a foot massage in the early hours of the morning. That humanitarian aspect blew me away. The hospice staff are always so accommodating, saying with a smile, “Just call us if you need anything.” That means so much.”
Pilgrims has shown us so much kindness and compassion. If I won the lottery, I would make a large donation to the charity because it has made such a difference to my life. Thanks to the hospice team, I’m pain-free.
Pilgrims got Hamid’s symptoms under control, ensured he was on the correct medication and facilitated a smooth return home. Social workers helped him secure a disabled badge and the occupational therapy team arranged home aids including a bed, chair cushion and stool for cooking in the kitchen. Hamid has also accessed physiotherapy services. At a recent hospital appointment, his consultant was amazed at how well he is doing since his referral to Pilgrims care.
Peyma said: “We need to change the perception of hospice care, because it can affect prognosis and quality of life in such a positive way. There is so much to be offered; even little things you take for granted like being able to shower or being made a cup of tea. It feels like home.
“When you’re not in pain, you’re not thinking about cancer; it’s not shadowing our lives anymore. Who knows what’s around the corner? We just take each day as it comes.”
Hamid added: “Pilgrims has shown us so much kindness and compassion. If I won the lottery, I would make a large donation to the charity because it has made such a difference to my life. Thanks to the hospice team, I’m pain-free and that’s the most important thing. With their support, I hope this means that I can have a few years of good quality life with my beautiful wife and lovely son.”
Pilgrims Hospices Divas on Wheels cycle ride takes place on Sunday 11 August. Riders will set off into the beautiful Kent countryside from The Independent Pedaler in Bridge to raise funds for local hospice care. Cycling through quiet country lanes with refreshment stops along the way, riders can take on a 25- or 50-mile cycle before returning to a special ‘Divas Village’ for refreshments and the reward of a participants medal.
Sarah Jeffreys from Broadstairs is taking part for the first time this year and has signed up for the 50-mile cycle. She is supporting the local charity in memory of her father-in-law Roger Seward and uncle Martin Duff who were cared for at the hospices.
Sarah is a Social Worker for Canterbury and Coastal Adult Social Care supporting older people and people who have physical disabilities. She told us: “I used to be a regular cyclist and I have previously completed some long-distance challenges, however, over the past few years I have significantly neglected my fitness, choosing instead to focus on studying for a degree. Now I’ve decided to get my fitness back, and I wanted a challenge so Divas on Wheels is perfect. The event gives me something to train towards and I get to spread the word about Pilgrims Hospices charity at the same time!
“I have roped my friend Claire Wills into signing up for the short course as well. At events like this, it doesn’t matter if you join as a single rider because you always have plenty of people to talk to and ride with around the whole course.”
Sarah shared some of her thoughts on Pilgrims Hospices services:
“One thing stands out for me was when a Pilgrims nurse came to our home at a point when nobody knew what to do, I was scared and I wanted to feel like I could do something to help. The nurse explained that it is a natural feeling and suggested some small tasks I could do to feel better. I really feel like this was a turning point for me personally because I felt after that I could be honest that I was scared and that I didn’t know what to do with myself. The way that the nurses gave care to Roger preserved his dignity to the end and they upheld his wish to stay at home with his family by his side. Thank you so much to all at Pilgrims Hospices, that was very important to him.
This charity touches the lives of so many people, they do not judge they just give a warm welcome and unconditional care and support no matter if you’re a younger adult or an older person. Pilgrims is not just about end of life care, although that has proved so important to my loved ones.
“In May this year my uncle Martin Duff felt ill and his hands were constricting. He was admitted to hospital and he was then told he had end-stage terminal cancer. He had no idea he was so ill before that admission and nobody had any idea that he was seriously ill. He was given a bed at Pilgrims Hospice Canterbury where staff continued to have a laugh with him and ensure he had choice and dignity for his last few weeks. He passed away peacefully with his daughter by his side at the hospice. He was only 56.
“This charity touches the lives of so many people, they do not judge they just give a warm welcome and unconditional care and support no matter if you’re a younger adult or an older person. Pilgrims is not just about end of life care, although that has proved so important to my loved ones. They also offer people support groups, pain clinics, emotional resilience, and fun activities for socialising.”
Sarah has chosen not to fundraise for this event but to make a personal donation: “My friends and family members have very generously sponsored me and my partner Matt Seward on multiple charity events over the past couple of years. Matt took part in the TransAtlantic Way Challenge cycle in June this year and raised almost £3,500 for Pilgrims Hospices. We wish to thank everyone who has helped us to raise important funds for the charity.”
The family is planning their continued support for Pilgrims Hospices by taking part in the Thanet 5k Colour Run on Sunday 20 October.
Each year Pilgrims supports hundreds of local people coping with a life-limiting illness and their families. The charity offers a range of services: from end of life care given on its wards to its Wellbeing Programme supporting people after they are diagnosed to live well and stay independent.