Because of you...

Ash got fabulous care

When BBC Radio Wiltshire journalist Ashley Heath was diagnosed with a stage 4 brain tumour in 2015, he was told that he could expect to live for around 18 to 20 months. In the event, he underwent five operations and immunotherapy treatment and lived for a further five and a half years.

Ashley’s widow, Nancy (pictured above with her husband as extras in War Horse), says he was very clear with her about where he wanted to die. The majority of people would prefer to die at home, but Ashley wanted to die in Prospect Hospice’s inpatient unit.

“Prospect Hospice had arranged for us to have a hospital bed in the living room as Ashley became less mobile, and we had Prospect Hospice nurses coming in two or three times a day – they were lovely. But Ashley worried that if he died at home it would be a permanent reminder to me whenever I sat there.

“On 2 January 2021 I couldn’t wake him up, and he was taken into Prospect Hospice’s inpatient unit. It was during the pandemic, but Ash got fabulous care – it meant I could be with him, but also have a break, knowing that he was well-cared for. He was very keen that I should remain his wife, not his carer, and Prospect Hospice enabled that to happen.

“Having lived with Ash’s illness for five years, I knew he would nose-dive quite quickly, and David, the social worker Ash saw there, was so supportive and told me I’d got it exactly right. I worried that perhaps I should have got Ashley back home – Prospect Hospice would have cared for him there, too – but David’s reassurance was exactly what I needed to hear. That, and the way he talked with Ashley – chatting about all sorts of stuff, lending a friendly ear, and letting Ashley escape his illness rather than navel-gazing – was a great help and comfort to us. He and the other staff were excellent.

“I worried about what his last moments would be like. How would I know when he was actually going? One of the nurses explained how he would start breathing in a different way, very slowly – the fact that she knew and could tell me was really helpful.

“By now, I could see that Ashley’s body was just all used up. I believe in an afterlife, and in my head I said to his late friend Mark, ‘Mark put your pint down and come and get him, please’. I believe that’s exactly what happened. Ashley was very sleepy, and then he raised a quizzical eyebrow, then gave a little smile, as if to say ‘well, I didn’t expect that!’ and a few breaths later he was gone.”

Ashley died on 25 January 2021 and Nancy says we are extremely lucky to have Prospect Hospice in our community.

“Prospect Hospice really focuses on the patient and family, rather than the illness. I found it incredibly comforting to have a nurse in the room who had done all this before and could reassure me. It was so important that Ashley was listened to, and died in the way he wanted to. It’s amazing that a local charity can provide such fantastic care, and do so without charging a penny.”

Find out more about how you can support the work of the hospice with a regular gift here.