HEALTH – “MY DAD” Alan Simpson


My Dad, Donald George Simpson, known as Don, died a few months ago surrounded by his loving family by his bedside – his wife of 51 years, his 4 children and their partners, 3 Grandchildren and 2 of his brothers along with their partners and some of their children. 16 of us in total.

it was important that we were there to support each other, particularly Mum, as a solid family. I think if only some of us were allowed by his bed as he passed it may have caused unnecessary grief and arguing. Although machines had to be moved to allow us all in together, we are all very thankful to be there as a family, with our partners for support.

The staff were absolutely brilliant! They let us come and go as we pleased. One nurse came and gave us a gentle shoulder rub while we were outside the hospital, even though she was off duty, heading home and taking a call on her phone. We felt as important as Dad.

There was pretty much 3 or 4 of us around dad’s bed most the night, which involved letting us in and out. We were told Dad was stable, and we should head home to rest. We headed home, and about a hour later called to see how he was doing. Dad wasn’t doing good, and we all headed back to the hospital.

Over the next 5 or 6 hours we threw all sorts of questions at Dad’s personal care assistant, David (I do hope that’s the correct title to use). He answered the best he could, honestly and respectfully even if the answer was he didn’t know. David kept us informed about what he was doing, even if he was grabbing a cuppa. There was always someone caring for Dad, so even when David went for a break the staff would always do a handover so we never had the “ where has he gone, what’s wrong or what is he doing” type questions.

Although Dad was unresponsive, David spoke to dad before and during any task he carried out on him. “Mr Simpson I am just about to change the tube on the machine, this might be uncomfortable but will not hurt, and I am going to start this now” – it was because of phrases like this that the family realised how respectful he was.

It got to about 3 or 4 am and David told us with meds and machines he could keep Dad stable through the night, and we could get some rest, but we could also stay all night if we preferred. Because of his openness and honesty we trusted David enough to be able to get some sleep.

In the morning Charlotte was Dad’s personal carer. The Consultant took me and my brother into a side room and told us Dad wasn’t getting better and no matter what they tried, he wouldn’t. This was done politely and respectfully; he then told Mum and my sisters the same news with the same degree of compassion. Mum’s decision with support from the family, was to turn of the machines and let him sleep. We phoned his brothers to come back to say goodbye.

It could possibly of been a little awkward for Charlotte, as she trains in the same gym, and classes as my wife, however she didn’t show it and conducted her tasks in a polite, professional, caring way. I remember asking for Dad’s ID bracelet and Charlotte explained it was still needed after his passing so another was printed for me. This wasn’t in capitals so Charlotte swapped them over giving me the original. The way Dad was treated both medically and as a person has helped me deal with his passing. My family has no thoughts about “ if only they tried…… maybe they could if saved him” this is because we were informed constantly about his care, his condition and possibilities of what may happen.

My family felt everyone gave 100% to look after dad, and make him well. When it was recognised that this was futile, focus changed 100% to easing the pain and make him comfortable. As we were also cared for, we felt able to decide to turn the life support off but to also offer dad’s organs for donation. Although the cancer and sepsis had ruined his main organs, his eyes were usable and have already been transplanted.

My dad held about 8 charity nights events during his life, he loved country music and helping out and would simply combine the two. As it turns out one of Dad’s last charity nights was for the ICU at Cumberland Infirmary; other good causes over the years included raising funds for special need schools, Lockerbie crash survivors, and delivering a LOT of Xmas presents to the children’s wards on Christmas day, with about 8 Santa’s and dogs pulling the sleigh. Being grateful for what we have and helping others that are in need have been the back bone of our family.

I work in the catering industry and sometimes receive gratuities in the form of cash tips. For whatever reason society deems health care a job not to tip. Even though we said thank you to the staff hundreds of times, it didn’t quite express our thanks. I made a cake for the staff of ICU and A and E, and other family members sent thank you cards, but at the funeral wake it was decided by the family a charity night would be the most fitting tribute. The thought of the charity night is giving the family comfort and strength, and can’t help but smile that we will have played a little part in getting a piece of equipment which helps to pull someone through, or eases their pain.

Local businesses have been very very generous and we have had lots of items to auction and raffle. I also recognise how hard my dad must of worked to organise such evenings, because even with the whole family and the Internet this has been tough.


*The opinions expressed are the bloggers own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Health Innovation Summit.
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