Staff pull together to fulfil Margaret’s last wish
Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible. – Claude T Bissell
Margaret, 56, was a long-term patient at St George’s. She had received chemotherapy and undergone surgery to fight her neck cancer but at the beginning of this year her health began to deteriorate and she was referred to our palliative care team.
Gretchen, a palliative care clinical nurse specialist working on Florence Knightgale ward met Margaret and began helping her with pain control and symptom management.
Margaret spoke to Gretchen about her desires to marry Stephen, her long-time love. She wanted to have the chance to share that special day with him, her family, and their friends. She wanted to spend her final days as his wife.
Gretchen was moved by Margaret’s situation and wanted to help her dream come true. However, when it became clear that Margaret wasn’t going to be able to leave the hospital Gretchen had to rethink how she could support her wish to get married.
Recruiting the help of Fiona, a fellow clinical nurse specialist and chaplain Rob alongside other members of the Florence Nightingale ward, Gretchen set about arranging for Margaret and Stephen to have their wedding at St George’s.
Gretchen and her team worked together to invite friends and family, they arranged for photography and organised refreshments. Staff came in of their days off to celebrate the occasion with Margaret, and staff nurse Emma even leant Margaret a dress for the day and did her hair and make-up.
Thanks to their efforts Margaret was able to have her wedding in the hospital chapel surrounded by family members and the staff who had cared for her. She passed away peacefully three days after the wedding.
Gretchen said, “It was an emotional time for people. Some of us had known her for quite a while. You sometimes can’t do everything for a patient but it’s about picking up on what’s important.
“Both Margaret and her husband had a lovely day and her family were grateful that we could fulfil her wishes – that’s what inspires you to do those extra things and go the extra mile.”