Professor Stephen Westaby, a world-renowned heart surgeon and author of popular books Fragile Lives and The Knife’s Edge, told us about the care and support his father Ken received at Katharine House when he turned one hundred years old. 

“When my 99-year-old father Ken started to feel ill and spiral downwards he was admitted to John Radcliffe Hospital and spent 10 days on my old ward, the cardiothoracic unit, as someone had recognised the surname and transferred him there!

“He was seen by some good doctors, but he was not getting better and we realised he needed palliative care. He was unable to swallow medication, liquid or food for two weeks. Consequently, he was unable to get out of bed or stand. He had a drip and a catheter, both of which he requested should be removed. In short, we now suspect that he had undiagnosed Covid and, as experienced medical men, both my brother and I were certain that he would not survive more than a few days.

“He came to Katharine House and we assumed that he would just get the care he needed to be on his way.

“But instead, he got kindness, he got help and he got better."

“The turnaround was so remarkable. The Covid resolved itself which, in a 100-year-old patient, is extraordinary in itself, as the neurological effects of Covid can be devastating. He had lost his memory but that greatly improved. After just two weeks, he came back to us.”

Stephen explained he was one of the first Western doctors to learn about Covid in Wuhan at the time of the first outbreak and said: “The irony is that I learned about Covid back then and my father nearly died from it. And it was good old Katharine House that prevented it.”

“The care and encouragement provided by Katharine House were outstanding and resulted in a discharge to my home. He was able to get up on his own, which was unusual, and keenly enjoyed eating bacon sandwiches!”

Stephen and his family received a range of support from medical care to social advice, and the team even sorted out the specialised bed and equipment Kenneth needed to return home.

“Everyone was extremely helpful. The thing about all the nurses is that they were all very nice. They talked to us, and they explained things.

“We used to bring Monty, our Flat Coat Retriever, into the hospice and everyone made a fuss of him. In fact, they made us promise to bring him back for a visit!

“Nothing was too much trouble. Any little thing, they sorted it out for us. They made you feel like you were part of one big family.”

Originally from Scunthorpe, Ken was a former soldier in the Royal Air Force, working on the bombers in Africa. When he left service, he went into retail and rose through the ranks to become a chief buyer at the Co-Op.

He had two sons with his late wife Doreen – both of whom are accomplished medical professionals – as well as six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. On 27 May 2022, he celebrated his 100-year birthday with a party, surrounded by loved ones.

Stephen continued: “When my father left Katharine House, they gave him a card that they’d all signed for his 100th birthday. It’s these little touches that make such a difference.

“I have no doubt that it was because of the nurses and the cheerfulness of the people around him that he started to get better. That really stimulated him.

“The fact that my father survived at all is nothing short of miraculous. The splendid Katharine House deserves recognition for its amazing work.”

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Katharine House Hospice