Hospice helps dad realise dying wish to be reunited with daughter in USA

A man with terminal cancer enjoyed an emotional last reunion with his daughter – after staff at a Bristol hospice helped organise for her to fly over from the USA.

Nigel Whittle, of Hotwells, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in December last year and told by medics he only had months to live.

One of Nigel’s last wishes was to see his only daughter Sophie, who lives in California.

But due to the pandemic it was a dream he thought he’d never realise.

Nigel was referred to St Peter’s Hospice after his diagnosis, with the charity stepping straight into action to support him.

Occupational health teams got involved, ensuring Nigel had the equipment at his flat in the city centre while the hospice’s nurses gave advice and support on helping him manage his condition.

He also received support from the hospice’s social work team who gave advice on benefits that Nigel could claim to help make his home life easier and maintain his independence.

But the hospice team also went the extra mile – to help him realise his dream of seeing his daughter for the last time.

The team worked with Nigel’s medical practice to put together the paperwork to allow Sophie to make an emergency visit.

Benefits accessed for Nigel by the hospice’s social work team helped fund the trip.

Earlier this month Sophie flew to the UK to spend a precious three days with her much loved dad.

“I last saw Sophie two years ago and following my diagnosis, I didn’t think I’d get to see her again,” said Nigel.

“But the hospice pulled out all the stops to help get all the paperwork in place for an emergency visit.”

Sophie had to quarantine on her arrival for seven days before heading to see her dad.

“It was wonderful to sit there with her and chat and reminisce .

“We got the old photos out and chatted about the past. I got to say what I wanted to say.

“It was very emotional to see her knowing it would be the last time I did.”

Nigel is well known in Bristol and was born and grew up in the city.

He worked as a trainee rep at the Fry’s Chocolate Factory before moving on to Wills Tobacco and then doing 20 years as a rep for Courage Breweries.

He then ran the BBC bar at Whiteladies Road for 12 and-a-half years before he retired, meeting many famous faces.

Nigel first felt unwell in November last year and was admitted to hospital.

After a range of tests he received the devastating news that he had terminal cancer.

“They told me I had three to six months to live at best without treatment,” he said.

Nigel then underwent chemotherapy in a bid to slow the cancer.

But just weeks ago he was called in to be told the treatment had not worked.

“At that point they gave me just one to two months,” he said.

“I told them that Sophie lived in California and they advised me to get her over to see me as soon as possible.”

Nigel, a former player/manager at Clifton St Vincents, says he cannot thank the hospice enough for its support.

“The hospice has been there for me all the way through,” he said.

“From organising equipment I need at home to helping me apply for benefits to supporting me with my medication to helping facilitate Sophie’s visit, they have been truly amazing.

“They have pulled out all the stops for me and I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Hospice social worker Jeanette Bartlett said: “As a team we worked together to look at ways of how we could support all Nigel’s needs.

“To see him able to reunite with his daughter was something really special.”

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