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Maureen's Story

After struggling with exhaustion and being admitted to hospital with breathlessness, Maureen Shillam went on to be diagnosed with heart failure in March 2019. But, after being referred to Thames Hospice by her GP, Maureen has been able to access day therapy sessions which has proved to be a lifeline for both her and husband Geoff.

Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Maureen Shillam, 89, was born and raised in Windsor, before bringing up her own five children in the historic market town. The eldest of three sisters, Maureen and her husband of 68 years Geoff fell in love by letter, having written weekly to each other for two-and-a-half years while he was stationed in Egypt with the RAF. They’re now proud grandparents of 15, with 12 great grandchildren. Maureen worked in many different jobs and industries over the years, including as a Post Office telephonist, for Horlicks in Slough and as a warden in sheltered housing. She also volunteered for Thames Hospice during her early retirement, supporting patients with companionship visits in their homes and volunteered regularly in the charity’s shop in Dedworth. Since her own difficult diagnosis, Maureen visits the Hospice on a weekly basis, accessing our Paul Bevan Wellbeing Centre where she can meet friends, try out crafts, take part in gentle exercise and enjoy complementary therapies – to name a few activities. She says the Hospice’s wellbeing programme has not only brought her joy and purpose, but it’s also given Geoff vital peace of mind. Here the couple tell us why Thames Hospice has been such a game-changer for the whole family.

Maureen, 89, says: “Heart failure crept up on me. I’d always been so energetic, but suddenly I found myself getting more and more tired. After going into hospital one night with breathlessness I ended up staying for 10 days while they did some tests. After we were told what the problem was I’d get annoyed with myself because I could no longer do the things I used to – but Thames Hospice has really helped me with that. I first associated with the Hospice as a volunteer so I’ve always felt part of it. The Hospice has always seemed like a friend to me. I was then referred by my doctor for the Hospice’s Day Therapy Services, and I’ve been visiting weekly for a while now. There’s just a lovely feeling when you walk in. I’ve made lots of friends and everyone is so diverse. I love the companionship side of it, chatting with everyone and staying for lunch. I love doing all the crafts too, it’s fantastic. I know that I can always speak to someone at the Hospice, day or night, and that’s a lifeline for me. I know that the Hospice will always be there for me.”

Thames Hospice has also been able to provide comfort to Maureen’s beloved husband Geoff, who says her accessing Paul Bevan Welling Centre does him good because he knows she’s getting to spend time doing what she wants. The activities Maureen’s able to take part in at the Hospice also give her inspiration for crafting at home, which she loves.

Geoff, 93, explains: “What Thames Hospice offers is important for loved ones, as well as patients. It’s a happy place and the people there turn you around. Going to the Day Therapy sessions has certainly changed Maureen’s state of mind. And it gives me peace of mind too, knowing she has something to look forward to.

“I was smitten with Maureen from when we first started writing weekly letters to each other back in the early 1950s. I came home from Egypt to the UK in May 1954 and proposed to her that September. We married on New Year’s Day 1955 and I’d asked if we could do it then so I’d never forget our anniversary! We’ve always worked at our marriage and done a lot of things and travelling together. Our family has always come first.”

Maureen and Geoff are very close to their five children; twins Bridget and Andrew, Chris, Tracey and Mathew, and Bridget now cares for Maureen, driving her to the Hospice each week.

Maureen says: “I don’t like to think what it would be like if I didn’t have access to the Hospice. It’s like a home from home for me and I really don’t know what we’d do without it. All the staff are so lovely and they work so hard. Being able to access Day Therapy Services makes me feel like I’m in this together with others. There’s always a warm welcome, and you feel at home right from when you see the ladies on the main reception. Thames Hospice is a place with lots of laughter, you don’t see a lot of tears.

“When I retired I knew I wanted to volunteer in some way and I had training at the Hospice to visit people in the local community. I was able to support people in Windsor providing some companionship, and I loved it.

“If I reached a stage where I needed to go into the Hospice I would never worry about it. It’s actually where I’d like to be. It also makes things so easy for your family and friends. I hope that when my times comes I will be able to go there.

“I’m not frightened of dying. If I knew I was going into the Hospice I’d feel prepared. Thames Hospice is like a second home for me and it’s the icing on the cake for me, knowing that they’re completely behind me.”

Make a difference

Our services are free of charge to all those in our community who need vital hospice care but this is only made possible through the charitable support and generosity of our amazing community. We need to raise £38,363 each day to fund our services 365 days a year to the people who need us most.

We’ve never needed you, our wonderful supporters, more than we need you today. Please donate what you can to help keep hospice care available for those in desperate need.

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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