Julie’s Story | The Hospice of St. Francis

Julie’s Story

“I would have never dreamt that I’d be taken out to the zoo. It was so unexpected,”

“I would have never dreamt that I’d be taken out to the zoo. It was so unexpected,” Julie says, describing her recent visit to Whipsnade.

Julie arrived at the Hospice in February with metastatic cancer, and was initially unable to leave her room. But as she grew stronger and attended coffee mornings, Julie’s goal – to revisit the zoo she’d loved with her family – came to the fore.

“On the Friday, Ray (Head of Spiritual Care) said, ‘I’m going to take you to the zoo on Monday’ and I was like, how are you going to do that?” Julie says, recalling her disbelief. Behind the scenes, our Wellbeing Team was working to make it happen.

Julie and her husband joined Ray for a whirlwind tour of Whipsnade Zoo that Monday. “We saw the giraffes and the elephants. There were rhinos in the field and some emus,” Julie recalls with enthusiasm. “It made such a difference getting out. It was absolutely fantastic.”

Julie’s husband Peter agrees. “It’s a little bit of your life that is normal. A lot of people believe that a hospice concentrates on death. Which isn’t right. They concentrate on life.”

Julie and Peter were initially scared about what going to a hospice meant. “We didn’t know exactly what happened in a hospice. The vision is you’ll come in and lie in a bed and that’s it,” Peter said.

Julie describes her relief upon her arrival at the Hospice. “As I came in the sun was shining, and I felt a weight lift. I was out of hospital, and I was somewhere so beautiful.”

As she praises the food, the activities and the staff at the Hospice, Julie brims with emotion. “It’s very uplifting here. The nurses just come in and they’re bubbly and bright. If you’re laughing, they’ll laugh with you. They’ll share memories with you,” she says. Among Julie’s happiest memories are her visits to Whipsnade Zoo with her son when he was a child. “We used to love it when they had the sea lion shows,” Julie says. “And the way the penguins dive in (to the water) is just fantastic.”

Julie with her son at Whipsnade Zoo

Julie’s husband Peter is now hoping to bring her home, something which seemed daunting before.

“Now I have to go to the shops and buy lime jelly,” Peter tells Julie, noting her love of the Hospice’s puddings. “For your first night at home.”