Kathy Waters was just 51 when diagnosed with a rare type of germ cell cancer and lost her brave fight in April 2018 at ellenor hospice in Gravesend. Seeing at first-hand the dedication and compassion of the palliative care team meant that ellenor gained a special place in the hearts of Kathy’s husband Dennis and their four children Danny, James, Gemma and Chloe, which made them want to show their support after her death by donating a play area for children within the hospice garden.
A former Manager at Dartford Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Kathy worked closely with the ellenor teams delivering talks for staff regarding Wellbeing and children’s transition to adult’s services. She knew the hospice well and when in hospital asked specifically that she be transferred to ellenor hospice to spend her last few days.
Dennis says ‘We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at ellenor, as we had never been in a hospice before. One half of me wanted her at home, a place she loved, the other half of me wanted to respect her decision. We thought a hospice would be gloomy, a place where people come to die, but instead found ellenor bright, busy and happy with an incredibly positive outlook, and nurses extremely kind, happy and cheerful. People come here, too, to access ellenor‘s day services or for coffee. It’s a happy place with lots going on.”
Kathy’s daughter Gemma says “Mum was amazing in many ways. She was beautiful, funny, kind, fiercely loyal to her friends and family – a devoted wife and the most loving mother and grandmother. Every single person we encountered at ellenor was kind and so caring. We are so happy that she was at ellenor, rather than in a hospital. She died with dignity surrounded by respect and tender care. For that we can’t thank ellenor enough.
Through fundraising and donations, ellenor now has a Tiger sound centre incorporating musical chimes and rain-wheel. When the children start playing on the beaters, it creates an irresistibly beautiful sound and calms you down. Mum would have loved it”.
Dennis says “The outdoor sensory children’s play area in the gardens of ellenor hospice will allow us to keep Kathy’s memory alive, as well as provide a safe and happy place for patients, visitors and families to enjoy when visiting. The support we have received from our friends and family has been overwhelming, and we are immensely grateful to all those involved. I enjoyed helping to build it and to hear children laughing and playing here is wonderful”.
Although they know the service is there as and when they need it, neither Dennis nor Kathy’s children have yet chosen to have bereavement counselling offered with ellenor. For the moment, Dennis comes to the hospice for a cup of tea, to have a listen to the chimes in the play area and he says he might join the ellenor dog walking group at some stage. “There’s a whole range of support here at ellenor, and it’s great to know that we can choose what feels right for us when we’re ready for it”.
ellenor Head of Children’s Services Rebecca Scalzo says: “We are so grateful to Dennis and his family for choosing to honour Kathy’s life with the play area. It is a wonderful addition to the garden and it’s lovely to see children playing and enjoying the sounds. Children of all ages and abilities are able to use the play area and we know how much sound and sensory experience can contribute to a child or young person’s emotional wellbeing. It seems such a fitting tribute to the life of Kathy, who dedicated her career to improving the mental health of children. Thank you so much.”
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