Here at St John’s we don’t just care for people at the end of their life, we play an active part in the community helping people with a wide range of conditions, and at all stages. We work in partnership with many other organisations, sharing best practice, and doing all we can to improve access to care in our community, when people need it most. Many people don’t realise that our care extends across the North Lancs and South Lakes area to a population of around 250,000 people.
A good example of the kind of work we are involved in, that maybe you wouldn’t expect, is our partnership with the Kendal Lymphology Centre, helping provide a local clinic for Lymphoedema patients. Lymphoedema is a distressing and limiting condition that people suffer from for a number of reasons, but they can be especially at risk after the removal of lymph nodes.
One patient, Karen Cowie, has been coming to the clinic here at St John’s for about a year, after having surgery for breast cancer. She has been coming to see Rachel Warth and Sonya Bainbridge from the Kendal Lymphology Centre, for advice on self-management and to be measured for compression hosiery.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2015, right before my honeymoon! When I got home I had a mastectomy and I also had a lymph node removed. I also had some chemotherapy later that year and now I am delighted to be cancer free.”
“But early in 2016 my arm started to swell and become very painful. I was accessing some services at Cancer Care at the time, and it was a lady there called Andrea who first mentioned to me that it might be Lymphoedema. I had never heard of it. Shortly afterwards I was referred to St John’s Hospice for treatment. I was terrified. Why was I going to a hospice? Was there something they weren’t telling me?”
“My fears were unfounded as it is a wonderful place, and they do so much more than look after people at the end of their life. For Lymphoedema, the hospice plays host for a local clinic and Kendal Lymphology Centre provide the treatment. It has really opened my eyes to how big a part the hospice plays in our community and how many different ways they are involved in community care.”
The hospice recently purchased two specialist kits which help disperse the swelling and ease the discomfort associated with Lymphoedema. The purchases of two Bio Compression IPC Units were only made possible by The Hadfield Trust (to help patients in the South Lakes) and The Galbraith Trust (to help patients in Lancaster and Morecambe). Rachel Warth, from Kendal Lymphology Centre, explains how the machine works, “The machine is like a large compression sock, similar to what you wear when having your blood pressure taken. It simulates lymphatic drainage which is what helps to disperse the swelling and ease the discomfort…The machine offers full coverage for the patient which makes it quicker and more effective.”
Karen explained what it felt like using the kit, “It feels wonderful, I love it. It is like warm ripples moving up and down your arm, it is so relaxing; I could just go to sleep! The pain relief is immediate and it has been a huge help.”
Although there is no cure for Lymphoedema, patients can learn to manage the condition to vastly improve their quality of life. Rachel said, “Karen is actually being discharged now that we have her condition under control. It won’t disappear completely but part of our role is helping the patient learn how to manage the condition. Good skin care, simple lymphatic drainage, gentle exercise, a good diet and wearing a compression sleeve can really help keep the symptoms at bay.”
Karen admits to being a bit nervous about being discharged but is looking forward, “Rachel and Sonya are a bit of a comfort blanket for me, I have been seeing them for a year so it is a bit scary to go it alone. That said though, they have shown me all I need to know to manage the condition and I am sure I will be just fine!”