“Richard thought the hospice staff were brilliant”

Richard Holmes and his mum Linda
Linda and Richard on holiday.

“Richard was absolutely beaming,” says Linda Holmes of her son’s graduation ceremony at the Marie Curie Hospice, Newcastle. “He’d recently lost his sight and so this gave him a real boost and made him happy. Despite being so ill he was able to take part and enjoy it.”

Linda’s son was 24 when he was admitted to the hospice – he’d been diagnosed with a brain tumour six years before.

Richard had worked as a fitness and sports coach and studied for a master’s degree in sports science during his treatment, sitting exams just three days after brain surgery.

After the surgery, Richard had restricted movement down his left side, so he became an inpatient at a hospital. But the hospital environment didn’t meet his needs.

Linda says: “The nurses were busy, and you’d ring the bell and have to wait. I’m not complaining, but sometimes it took time to get Richard’s pain under control.”

Made to feel welcome

The family were daunted when Richard’s consultant first recommended moving him to the Marie Curie Hospice, Newcastle, but they decided to trust her judgment.

“After Richard had been at the hospice for three days, we felt we had made the best decision,” says Linda. “Richard thought the staff at the hospice were brilliant – he loved it.  He had a big circle of friends and they were made very welcome.

“We had lots of conversations with the doctor about pain relief, and we understood what was going on. We were made so welcome and never made to feel we were in the way. The hospice became a little village for us, our little community.”

Linda often walked in the beautiful hospice garden with her husband George, daughter Nicola, and family friends. And they could take Richard outside in his bed as the door of his room opened straight out on to the patio.

Nurses arranged the ceremony

While Richard was in the hospice, his family found out that he’d achieved his master’s degree. The nurses offered to organise a graduation ceremony for Richard at the hospice, contacting the head of faculty and course director, who agreed to come along to present Richard with his certificate.

“We kept it a surprise for Richard until the morning of the ceremony so he wouldn’t get overexcited,” says Linda. “Some lecturers and most of the nurses squeezed into the room for the presentation, and we had a big bottle of champagne! It was amazing.

“The hospice graduation was the culmination of all Richard’s hard work and a great recognition of what he’d achieved. Despite being very, very ill he was able to take part and enjoy it.”

Since Richard died, the hospice has supported Linda and her whole family, setting aside a room so that they can put together a memory box.

“I would do anything for Marie Curie,” Linda says. “I don’t think we’d have come through this experience intact as a family because it tears people apart. I know Richard thought the world of them. It was really special.”