Two teams at Royal Derby Hospital and Florence Nightingale Community Hospital 'turned a dreadful situation into an amazing end' when they reunited a husband and wife for their final days.
Now the son of patients Julia and Richard Hodges, has paid tribute to the teams and said he will always be grateful to them for the ultimate act of kindness.
In July 2023, 76-year-old Julia Hodges was admitted to Florence Nightingale's Ward 2 to receive palliative care on the same day that her husband, Richard, was admitted to Royal Derby Hospital after feeling unwell, being cared for by Ward 303.
Richard, 77, longed to be by Julia's side, but due to the acuity of his condition, was too ill to make the trip across the city to spend precious time with his wife.
It was then that the two ward teams came together to work out a plan to reunite the couple, who had been together for 53 years and celebrated their golden anniversary in May, in what was likely to be their final days together - with Richard eventually passing away while holding Julia's hand.
Julia and Richard's son, Chris, said he and his family were "incredibly moved" by the teams' kindness and for making a precious memory out of what was a very difficult situation. Such was the impact the teams had on the family, Chris wrote into the Trust expressing his gratitude, with the work of the two teams to reunite the married couple being recognised by Stephen Posey, Chief Executive at UHDB, who awarded both teams with a Making a Difference Award.
Chris said the way the teams came together to the aid of his parents and family was heart-warming and said the staff's compassion made a huge difference at a very upsetting time.
Chris said: "It was an awful time. My wife and I were doing our best to go back and forth between mum at Florence Nightingale Community Hospital and dad at Royal Derby Hospital. Every time we visited mum, the staff on the ward would ask how dad was doing and send well wishes and vice versa on Dad’s ward. Everyone was just incredibly kind and supportive.
"We knew mum's time was short, but we thought dad would get better and be well enough to see Mum before she passed, but he just seemed to deteriorate and as things got worse, we gave up hope of getting them back together again."
It was at this time when the Ward 303 team agreed to cease Richard's treatment and do all they could to make him comfortable in what were to be his final few days, that arrangements were made for Julia to be transferred to Ward 303 to be reunited with him.
Within just an hour, Julia and members of the Ward 2 team arrived at Royal Derby Hospital, allowing the family to spend precious time together, after colleagues worked to find Julia and Richard a two-bed bay so they could be together. Richard sadly passed away the following day, holding Julia's hand. Julia then also passed away on 26 August, just weeks later.
Rhianne Roberts, Registered Nurse on Ward 303, said being able to reunite Richard and Julia had a profound impact on everyone who was involved, and that she was delighted to have been able to help their family find solace in a sad situation.
She said: "They were such a lovely family and to be able to turn what is a really hard time into something so poignant was a really special thing to be a part of and very emotional for us all."
Dawn Wilkinson, Senior Sister on Ward 2 at Florence Nightingale Community Hospital, worked closely with Rhianne to help reunite Julia and Richard, and said it was a real collaborative effort and a pleasure to be able to do something so poignant: "We are in this job because we care and we didn’t think twice about making this happen. The teams really pulled together with one aim in mind - getting Julia and Richard back together for one last time. It was absolutely the right thing to do for those patients and it is something everyone involved in will remember for a long time."
Chris praised the two ward teams for their compassion, and said the impact of their actions will stay with him forever.
He continued: "It was an incredible act of kindness and went above and beyond what could ever be expected in terms of patient care. It was phenomenal.
"Just to see them back together once more was amazing and although my dad was relatively unresponsive, he seemed to calm and his breathing eased – he was aware that my mum was there.
"It was an ending that couldn’t have been possible without the amazing efforts of all involved. Over one weekend they changed a dreadful situation into an amazing end, and I will always be so grateful to them."
The work of the two teams to reunite the married couple has been praised by Stephen Posey, Chief Executive at UHDB, who awarded both teams with a Making a Difference Award after receiving a hand-written letter and nomination from Chris.
Upon presenting the teams with their awards, Stephen said it was clear to see the collaboration between all colleagues to deliver compassionate care.
He said: "In what must have been a very upsetting time for the family of these two patients, I am proud to see that the teams involved showed great compassion and kindness and that the loved ones of these patients truly felt that colleagues went above and beyond to work collaboratively to deliver exceptional care."