'Now I was a wife rather than a 24-hour carer'
PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:52 04 July 2019
A woman who ran the full gamut of emotions as her husband succumbed to a cruel disease talks to Tony Wenham about the special treatment her family received in his last hours.
The shattering weeks and months of witnessing a loved one's steady deterioration towards death were now distilled into a final few hours.
"He'd wanted to die at home, but the point had come when it was just not possible because he was so ill," explained Valerie Allum, whose husband Trevor died last autumn aged 75.
Trevor, by now unconscious, was taken to Priscilla Bacon Lodge (PBL) in Norwich accompanied by Valerie, son Philip and daughter Sue Hepworth.
"When we got there, the relief was amazing," says Valerie.
"The staff let us become a family again. They really took over. I felt I was now a wife rather than a 24-hour carer.
"We were able to stay with Trevor as long as we wanted - in fact, from 1pm to 7.50pm when he died. When it was over, we were asked simply if we wanted a cup of tea - and, yes, we really did.
"We stayed with him then for another hour, just talking to him together."
Now the voice checks for a moment as Valerie, speaking at her Horsford home, near Norwich, relives the emotions of those last months, the experience still very raw as her beloved husband succumbed to asbestosis.
"He faced it with such tremendous bravery," she says.
"He'd had exceptional good health all his life, but he never complained.
"He deteriorated quite quickly, requiring palliative care, so we tried to maintain the quality of life if we couldn't have quantity.
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"Ultimately, you have to accept it.
"It is extremely hard, but life has to move on.
"My purpose in life is now to make something positive out of a negative and I'm devoting my time to fundraising for the Priscilla Bacon Hospice appeal."
The expanding and ageing Norfolk population is now outgrowing the 40-year-old lodge and a £12.5m appeal was launched this spring to build a new and bigger Priscilla Bacon Hospice on a different site outside Norwich.
Already more than £3m has been raised, but there is still a long way to go before work can start on the 24-bed unit which will serve all of Norfolk.
"The lodge is a serene place, nothing like a hospital," says Valerie.
"The staff are angels and their caring is beyond words. However, now we need a new facility."
A former engineer, Trevor's great hobby was classic cars - the couple's last outing together was at Cromer Carnival 2018 in their BMW 730i - and Valerie, a past secretary of the Norfolk Classic Vehicle Club, organised a tombola at the group's annual show at Strumpshaw last month raising £240 for the hospice appeal.
Add almost £500 collected at Trevor's funeral and more than £850 raised by daughter Sue after a North Sea dash on Boxing Day and the family's efforts take on a special significance.
More events are being planned for the future, including a possible parachute jump by Sue next year.
Meanwhile Valerie has advice for other people who find themselves in circumstances similar to her own during that terrible time last year: "You have to know that you will always have your memories and you will learn to cope and move forward.
"However hard it is - and will be - your love for each other never leaves you, and you find a strength you never realised you had."
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the fundraising team on 0330 223 4274 if you can raise funds in support of the Priscilla Bacon Hospice appeal.