Supporting patients and families

Looking after patients’ precious loved ones

Looking after patients’ precious loved ones

Family was the most important thing in Derek Henry’s life. After he sadly passed away in 2017, in a wonderful tribute to him, Derek’s own family raised money for the refurbishment of a room on Hedley Atkins Unit, the ward where he was cared for in his final days.

Derek’s daughter, Kim Henry, stayed in the unit’s family room in the last week of his life. After his death, Kim and the rest of their family decided to collect donations in Derek’s memory to help make the room a nicer environment for patients’ loved ones to use.

Derek and Kim’s story

Derek was first diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2013 and had surgery at Guy’s to remove his bowel. In 2017 he found out it had come back, but he didn’t want to worry his family so he kept it to himself.

Kim was in Italy on her honeymoon when she got a phone call saying that her dad was in hospital. She flew straight home and went directly to Guy’s Hospital, where she was told by staff that there was nothing they could do for him except make him as comfortable as possible.

Following this devastating news, Kim spent every precious moment possible with her dad. Sadly Derek passed away at Guy’s in August 2017, aged just 59.

During Derek’s difficult last days, when she wasn’t at his bedside Kim was in the family room on Hedley Atkins Unit. She says that whilst it was a comfort to be able to use, it was also a clinical and bare place to be.

‘Dad was too weak to talk so I would sit with him until 9pm, then go and settle down in the family room for the evening,’ recalls Kim. ‘I’d be alone in a darkened, quiet room with no warmth and the buzz of a loud generator. It was very hard to get comfortable and relax.’

However, the room became a special place to Kim, who is a mother of three, and the rest of her family.

‘It was a place where we cried, laughed and shared memories of Dad in his final days,’ says Kim. ‘After he died we wanted to do something for the hospital to remember him. The most important thing to him was family, and the family room is always full of family and friends, so we thought that improving it would be a fitting tribute.’

Making a difference for families

A fantastic £1,745 was collected through a special tribute website that Kim set up in Derek’s memory. The family chose for the funds to be put towards giving the family room a complete makeover. It now has a large TV, books, magazines, comfortable seating and images on the freshly painted walls, including one showing Clapham Common bandstand, which was Derek’s favourite place.

Kim and her family were invited to a special unveiling of the revamped room, an emotional event for everyone involved.

‘It’s lovely – it is much more homely and is somewhere relatives can go which doesn’t feel like you’re in hospital when you need to have time away from the ward,’ says Kim. ‘It will make a big difference to other families with loved ones on Hedley Atkins Unit.
‘Dad received incredible care at Guy’s. He had been coming into the hospital for years and often said the nurses worked so hard that they deserved a medal. The nurses and doctors were so empathetic and went above and beyond to look after him.’

Liz Dunn, Head of Nursing Oncology at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: ‘Improving the family room is a dream realised. What Derek’s family said about the room resonated with all of us. They wanted a little haven which felt different from being by the bedside of a patient in the ward. It is fabulous that they have thrown their energy into creating something wonderful. We are so thankful to them and what they have done is a great tribute to Derek.’

Giving in a loved one’s memory can be a special way to honour them, whilst supporting Guy’s and St Thomas’ to continue going above and beyond for its patients and their families.

Find out more about making a donation in someone’s memory.

Lead image: Derek's family presenting the cheque from their fundraising.