Grief-inspired start for region’s lifeline hospice

Founder of Treetops Hospice Cally Cheetham .
Founder of Treetops Hospice Cally Cheetham .
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In 1983 Cally Cheetham was a 21-year-old student mourning the loss of her mum to cancer.

In the aftermath of her sad loss she struggled to come to terms with the lack of help and support available.

She explained: “There was little help of any kind and dad and I found it very difficult to cope even on a practical level as neither of us knew anything about cancer or how best to help mum.”

A few years later and tragedy struck again when Cally’s dad also lost his battle with cancer.

Cally said: “There was still no practical help or emotional support for people caring for loved ones at home.

“We just wanted people to die in their own home if they wanted to. Somewhere where someone has autonomy, can make their own decisions. And support for their family too.

“When someone’s ill, you can have a lot of equipment (morphine drips, oxygen tanks etc) but you need more than that, you need people, you need people who care.

“When you have personal experience of something, for me it was caring for both my parents, you realise the gaps. And you want to do something to fill those gaps.”

Cally wanted to make sure that families and loved ones, as well as the patients themselves were supported during some of the toughest times of their lives.

Cally started a campaign and the Draycott Hospice Association was set up, shortly after it started it was rebranded as the Treetops Hospice Trust.

The trust bought it’s current base on Derby Road, Risley in 1986.

It opened up to day care patientsd in 1991 and the current building in Risley in 1986.

Since then the trust has expanded its premises and services and goes from strength to strength. It opened up to day care patients in 1991, Hospice at Home, a team of nurses and carers who make it possible for patients to die at home, began in 1994, followed by the addition of bereavement support services in 2000.

This week, to mark Hospice Care Week and to oversee the building of a new extension named after her, Cally, who now lives in France, is visiting the trust, 30 years after she first set it up.

She said: “I still have to pinch myself when I see or hear how well Treetops is doing now, I never thought it would be as big as this.

“It’s a million miles from where we started and a massive tribute to the hundreds of people, some sadly no longer with us, who gave their time and money to get Treetops off the ground.

“I always remember laughter here, both workers and guests. And the spirit and the ethos is still here.”

The Cheetham Centre, which is due to open in spring 2014, will house nine bereavement counselling rooms and a Hospice at Home co-ordination hub to deal with a rise in demand for end of life nursing care. There will also be a new support and information service for people who have recently been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness.

George Cameron, chief executive at Treetops Hospice, said: “We are proud to continue the fantastic work that Cally and her husband Nev started all those years ago.

“By creating The Cheetham Centre we aim to be able to support and care for more people than we’ve ever been able to do before.

“This is the beginning of a new era for Treetops Hospice and we can’t wait to get started.”

To mark Hospice Care Week, Treetops will be opening the doors of its day care centre to help people see the valuable services offered by the charity.

Visitors will be able to drop-in and find out what happens during a typical day in day care, speak to the bereavement counselling team and discover what it’s like to be a Treetops nurse.

Open day organiser, Helen Trubridge, explained: “We often get asked questions about if Treetops is a depressing place? How many beds wehave? If we only treat cancer patients?

“The truth is that Treetops is a happy, sociable place filled with laughter where we care for all adults with a life-limiting illness.

“Treetops has made a commitment to ensure everyone in the communities it serves has access to end of life care of the highest quality.

“By opening our doors we hope to educate as many people as possible about the range of care that Treetops provides and to tell them that we are there for them if and when they need us.”