'Angels' at Ashgate Hospice inspired worker by making final Christmas with stepdad a little bit brighter

A woman was inspired to work in healthcare after seeing how Ashgate Hospice ‘angels’ looked after her stepfather before his death on Boxing Day four years ago.

By Gay Bolton
Friday, 17th December 2021, 3:54 pm
Updated Friday, 17th December 2021, 3:55 pm

Sarah Warner started volunteering on the hospice’s inpatient unit just three months after her beloved stepdad Rob Holmes passed away at the age of 56.

In 2018, when a healthcare assistant role became available at the Old Brampton site, Sarah jumped at the opportunity to care for other families going through similar experiences that she had.

Sarah, 46, said: “Ashgate made the hardest most heartbreaking Christmas of our lives that little bit brighter.

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Sarah Warner, healthcare assistant, was inspired to join the Ashgate Hospice team by the care that her stepdad received before he died four years ago (photo: Ellie Rhodes).

“From the doctors and nurses to the kitchen team and volunteers – they were all angels! On Christmas Day, they even came to Rob’s room and set out a table and chairs for me and my mum, before bringing us a three-course dinner plus wine and crackers.

“By that time Rob was unresponsive, but it was such a lovely experience, and we were grateful to be able to make those final memories with him by our side. Rob loved Christmas and he had been really looking forward to it, so it was nice to get our last one together, even if he didn’t get to go to the pub!”

Despite the sadness of their situation, Sarah has many fond memories of their time spent at Ashgate, including that of a volunteer who made her laugh once again.

She said: “I remember Christmas morning; I was coming back from the family room, and I looked up to see one of the volunteers wearing antlers and funny glasses!

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“It set me off laughing and my mum wondered what was going on. Shortly after, the volunteer came into the room, so she saw for herself. I thanked him for making me laugh when I didn’t think it was possible.

“When I came to work at Ashgate, I mentioned it to him, and he remembered straight away and gave me a cuddle. We even took a selfie together on the first Christmas Day I worked here, both with our antlers on."

Nearly two years after her stepdad died, Sarah lost her mum, Elaine, less than a fortnight after a lung cancer diagnosis. Elaine had undergone a double lung transplant six years earlier when her family was warned that her anti-rejection medication meant the risk of getting cancer was far higher.

Sarah said: "To lose my cockney hero, Rob, who in my heart felt like my dad, and then my beautiful brave mum in such a short amount of time was so completely shattering.

“But I do also think my experiences have made me even better at my job, as I’m able to understand and emphasise with people going through difficult experiences.”

Having worked at the hospice for the past two Christmas Days, this year Sarah will be spending the time at home with her partner, Steph, and daughters Shelby and Kady, as well as grandson, Alfie.

She said: “My family are extremely proud of the fact that I work in a hospice. My mum loved Ashgate because of the care they provided to Rob. I recall the day I told her that I had got the job, she was lost for words, she just had a beaming smile across her face.”