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Unsung hero: Hospice nurse Irene Webster who brightens up the end of people’s lives
Challenging the view of dying as a miserable experience, nurse Irene Webster works to brighten the end of her patients’ lives.
In her eight years at the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher, Mrs Webster, 56, from Tolworth, has seen some of the most difficult, moving, and beautiful moments in hospice care.
She said: “I always knew I would end up working with the dying.
"When I first qualified, I saw a man dying who was very comfortable. When I saw his family walking away, I thought 'What’s going to happen to them?"
Mrs Webster, who has been nursing for 38 years and married for 32, was devoted to raising her two daughters, during which she worked night shifts at a nursing home.
She was eager to take on her calling.
She said: “When I started at the hospice I went there knowing that I could give it everything I have. It’s a demanding job. It’s very busy.”
Though an unlikely venue, the hospice hosts weddings and even welcomes loved ones from the animal kingdom.
Mrs Webster said: “It’s not a miserable place.
“A patient we had once who was very poorly had his dog brought in, but when he’d gotten the dog he didn’t realise she had been pregnant, and she actually gave birth in the room with him.
"He had one or two puppies on his chest. It was just beautiful.
“The first thing that we want the patients to feel is safe. If you know you are dying, that must be so reassuring."
Mrs Webster said her most difficult task was making sure everything was exactly right, for the patients’ families in particular.
She said: “We’re leaving them with a lot of memories. It is good to know that everything that should be done has been done, just as they want it to be, as much as possible.
“Every day is different, there’s always an element of surprise.
“For me it’s the best job I’ve ever done.”
This week has been hospice care week celebrating the work of hospices, which include Shooting Star Chase in Hampton and St Raphael’s Hospice in Sutton.