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Ashgate Hospice’s Ward Manager, Karen, helped Simon and Lindsay tie the knot in a special ceremony at the hospice’s Inpatient Unit. Tragically, one month later Lindsay died. Now Simon has reunited with Karen to tell her how much her support meant.
When mother of one-year-old Isaac, Lindsay Birley, was given just months to live, her husband, Simon’s life came crashing down – but he’ll forever be grateful to Ashgate Hospicecare for the difference they made towards the end of her life.
Lindsay, from Clowne, died in November last year, aged 38, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just six months before.
She spent the last weeks of her life on Ashgate’s Inpatient Unit, where she was cared for by its “wonderful” staff and volunteers, particularly Ward Manager, Karen Walker, who made a special impression on Lindsay and her family from the moment they met
Karen and her team went above and beyond to make lasting memories for Lindsay, Simon and little Isaac, even organising for the couple to tie the knot at a moving ceremony on the site in Old Brampton, Chesterfield. Before she died, Lindsay, who grew up in Creswell, described it as a “special day”, adding: “I can’t thank the hospice enough for everything they have done. We’ve been going through some tough times, but it was a really lovely day.” Sadly, she died exactly one month after her wedding day.
Ten months on from her death, Simon and Karen have been reunited in an incredibly moving film, as Simon gets the opportunity to pay tribute to Karen and say “thanks” for the care Lindsay received in her final days.
“I still can’t believe she’s gone; it still hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said. “She was so bubbly and always put other people first. I don’t know how she coped with it all, she just kept so calm.
“Throughout her short illness, she never once complained; it’s just awful that one minute we’d just welcomed our son Isaac into the world, we were so happy, the next thing life comes crashing to pieces. All we ever wanted was our own family, and then cancer took it away from us.”
Simon says Karen put them ‘at ease’ and made their wedding day ‘perfect, from start to finish’.
He added: “Karen was just amazing to us. It’s hard to put into words the difference she made. When my life had been shattered and I was seeing my loved one changing due to the disease, Karen was there to support us all.
“On the wedding day, Karen was there to support Lindsay and having her there made us much more relaxed, she helped make our wedding day go as well as it possibly could’ve. Without her and everyone else at Ashgate, we wouldn’t have been able to get married.
“Throughout our stay at Ashgate, Karen explained everything regarding Lindsay’s treatment and made such a difference – she put us all at ease. If we had any issues or problems, we’d just speak to her and she would deal with it instantly.
“I look up to Karen as someone who made a positive impact on my life, and I’ll be forever thankful for that.”
Karen, who has been caring for patients at Ashgate for almost 12 years, added: “It was such a privilege to be part of Simon and Lindsay’s life. We wanted to make their time at Ashgate as special as it possibly could be.
“The wedding was such a beautiful day. I’m so honoured that I was able to be part of that with them both and Isaac, as well as all the staff and volunteers on the Inpatient Unit.
“For me, it’s so important that we made sure Simon, Isaac and the rest of Lindsay’s family could spend those precious moments together.
“At the hospice, we’re able to provide that individualised care to our patients. I’m glad we were able to be there for Lindsay and her family during such a difficult time.”
Simon is ‘forever grateful’ for everything the hospice did for him and his family before the end of Lindsay’s life.
“I’m just so grateful that Ashgate was able to be there for us all,” he said. “Lindsay was so comfortable here and they did everything they could to offer the best care possible.
“She loved all the people that came around and supported her. She truly loved Ashgate and was so thankful that a place like the hospice existed.
“Everyone does such a fantastic job. Everyone working at Ashgate always has a smile on their face, considering how difficult the work might be. The mental strength the volunteers and staff must have is just incredible.”
Watch the emotional reunion between Simon and Karen below: