“North London Hospice cares for the emotional as well as the physical needs of a patient, something that was so important to my husband,” says Claire Modi-Nichols.
Claire’s husband Sunil Modi-Nichols, lived with heart disease (failure) and after more than five years trialling new and existing treatments, which provided him with precious time with family and friends, he was referred to the hospice in November 2019.
“Sunil was very fearful when he was referred but we were struggling and had run out of options so the hospital advised him it was time for palliative symptom based support.
“From the moment we arrived we felt very safe. For me, I had a lot of responsibility as Sunil’s main carer and that responsibility was immediately shared as soon as we walked into the beautiful building in Finchley,” added Theatre Manager Claire.
Sunil, 53, a Communications Manager, met Claire through mutual friends and they remained together for 25 years. They married in Goa and lived in Barnet with their 11-year-old son Tyler.
“Heart failure is an unpredictable illness. There are peaks and troughs,” adds Claire. “I was Sunil’s main carer, had a full-time job and our son to look after. On several occasions the hospice suggested Sunil went in for two-weeks of respite care.
“His first visit was a revelation to us. The staff cared not just for his physical needs but provided emotional support too. He had a room with a balcony where he could sit outside and there were big sofas for Tyler to lounge on if he wanted to. His time on the ward also gave me a chance to sleep and recharge. The doctors and nurses encourage independence and during each stay they helped and supported him to get back to living at home.”
During the pandemic North London Hospice maintained its services and kept its ward open. Technology was utilised and consultations were often conducted via phone or video link. Access to the ward was limited and visitation restrictions were introduced to keep patients, staff and families as safe as possible.
“Throughout the lockdown we felt supported. Anne Mossack from the social work team called regularly, sometimes just to see how I was, and the spiritual care team have been wonderful. Laurence from the team arranged video meets with Sunil which he really appreciated and he also calls me too.”
“Sunil wanted to be at home but he was not at peace or at ease so he went back into the hospice on 20th August. When he arrived he suddenly relaxed, he stopped fighting, and the next day he passed away peacefully. I was there holding his hand along with his sister and his best friend. I was so grateful I was by his side. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Claire concluded: “Each member of staff is so caring and they have time for their patients. In a hospital the nurses are so busy but at the hospice they stop and spend time with you. We all really valued that. The holistic care that we received was so important to us. They cared for the mind as well as the body. We’ve had an unbelievable experience with North London Hospice, and can’t thank them enough.”
During the years he lived with heart failure, Sunil was aware of the lack of knowledge in the wider community, and gaps in care when it came to heart failure. He collaborated with the British Heart Failure Society and spent four years capturing his experiences for them, which will feature in a campaign documentary ‘Fighting Failure’ to be screened in the autumn.