Thorpe Hall’s first patient

The Barnard family
The Barnard family
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Liz Pugsley clearly remembers welcoming Thorpe Hall’s first ever patient, Pauline Barnard.

Liz Pugsley clearly remembers welcoming Thorpe Hall’s first ever patient, Pauline Barnard.

Although Thorpe Hall was to be the region’s first dedicated palliative care centre, Lady Ryder – Sue Ryder – herself accepted Pauline and another patient on a long term basis – providing nursing home type care.

Pauline had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1981, two years after daughter Nicol was born. She went on to have her son Craig before the condition left her wheelchair bound.

Husband Gary said: “I wasn’t sleeping and I was so worried. Pauline and I wanted the children to enjoy a normal family life but that was becoming increasingly difficult.”

Just a couple of miles from their home in Bretton, Thorpe Hall was in the final stages of being renovated for use as a hospice. The team involved with Pauline’s care suggested it may be the perfect solution.

“The entire team came out to greet Pauline. They were really excited to have someone to care for after so much preparation!” said Gary, and it became Pauline’s home – and a home from home for her family.

Gary, now 59, said: “I worked in the mornings, had lunch with Pauline at Thorpe Hall before going home to deal with the children after school. I’d work again in the evenings.”

At weekends the whole family, including Pauline’s sisters Margaret, Sandra and Claire and their families, gathered at Thorpe Hall.

Nicol was 11 when her mum moved into Thorpe Hall. She remembers: “When Craig and I got pet rabbits at home we were allowed to bring them into mum’s room to play with. We would take mum into the shop and she would watch us for hours playing on the railway that used to run round the orchard where the inpatient unit is now.”

Craig remembers: “In the school holidays I’d bike to Thorpe Hall and pick up loads of conkers. Mum would help me pick the best ones to play with.”

Nicol and Craig became well known at Thorpe Hall. “To mum it was home – and it became like that to us,” said Nicol. “Mum really did receive the very best care. She was very particular about her appearance and the nursing team got to know her make up routine.”

With the help of staff Pauline did ‘mum things’, taking her children out and spending Christmas Day at home but 20 months later Pauline developed a problem swallowing.

Gary said: “I could have overridden Pauline’s decision not to be fed intravenously, but she was so brave to have made it, and so very dignified. She was made as comfortable as possible and, when she slipped into a coma, she looked like she was asleep. The children came to say goodbye and I stayed with her overnight so when the nurses woke me to tell me she was near the end I could hold her.”

Pauline died on January 9, 1993. She’s buried in Longthorpe Church but her family retained their Thorpe Hall links through enthusiastic fund raising.