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24 Apr 2020 Personal Stories

Sheila and Brett’s love story - part one

Sheila and Brett Miller first caught each other’s eyes in their local pub in 1976. The pair have been inseparable ever since. Their devotion to each other has defied the years. It has defied challenges, illnesses and setbacks. And it’s now defying the coronavirus crisis too.

In 2012, Sheila and Brett Miller received the devastating and unexpected news that Sheila had cancer. In the years that have followed, Sheila has faced many setbacks, including contracting sepsis on three separate occasions.

In February this year, Sheila was admitted to hospital after feeling unwell.

Brett said: “Sheila was in a really bad way. After a couple of tests, they found problems with Sheila’s kidneys, and she had to have a blood transfusion.”

Seeing her mum struggle, daughter, Cheryl, decided to get in touch with Kirkwood to find out what support was available to help her mum.

Within a couple of days, Sheila was visited by one of Kirkwood’s Nurses to assess her condition. Following the visit, she was admitted to Kirkwood’s In-Patient Unit so the wider team could support her to manage her symptoms and get them under control.

Brett said: “After just a few days on the In-Patient Unit, Sheila’s condition became more manageable and started to improve.

During Sheila’s stay at Kirkwood, doting husband, Brett, would visit Sheila every day, spending as much time with his beloved wife as he could. They both became very well-known to lots of members of the Kirkwood team, and Sheila soon became known as ‘Queen Sheila’ by the catering department – a term of endearment which Brett says Sheila loved, and always cheered her up!

A photo of Sheila during her stay at Kirkwood.

Sheila and Brett

The medical and nursing teams were pleased with Sheila’s progress, and after three weeks she was given the news that she could be discharged home again.

On arriving home, both Brett and Sheila became overwhelmed with love and appreciation for Kirkwood; so much so that Brett put pen to paper, writing Kirkwood not just one, but two letters. Both of his letters are now proudly displayed in the Nurses’ Office on the In-Patient Unit.

Brett and Sheila's letters are proudly display in the Nurses' office.

Brett said: “Kirkwood Hospice is out of this world, the teams are incredible and all work together. It is grand to talk to everyone there including the nurses, doctors, the cooks, chefs and cleaners. We have also had some great conversations with the volunteer, Neville; he always cheered us up.”

After a few weeks at home, where they continued to receive support from Kirkwood Community Specialist Nurse, Jo Dowson, Sheila was admitted back in to Kirkwood on Monday 23rd March for end of life care.

Brett said: “The Kirkwood Team remembered us when we came back; I couldn’t believe it. Every time I visit Sheila they greet me by my first name.”

Sheila’s recent admission to Kirkwood is now a lot different to her first visit back in February due to the coronavirus pandemic. The teams at Kirkwood have had to make a number of difficult decisions about the way services are run in order to keep everyone safe, including our most vulnerable patients.

News of the restricted visiting hours was devastating for Brett to hear. Determined to keep in touch as much as possible, he came up with a ‘new’ way to let Sheila know just how much he loves her.

With Brett’s natural talent for writing in a traditional calligraphic style, Brett started penning letters to Sheila every single day. Each letter was hand delivered to the Hospice by the couple’s daughter, Cheryl, in a sealed clear bag. Brett refused to go a single day without sending Sheila a letter.

Sheila was eager to return the loving gesture from her husband, Brett, and started to ask the nursing team for help. That’s when Auxiliary Nurse, Leon, stepped in to help…

Click here to read part two of Sheila and Brett's beautiful love story.

One of Brett's daily handwritten letters sent to Sheila.

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