THE family of the first patient to be cared for at St Gemma’s have told of the “amazing” care he received at the Leeds hospice which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
Father-of-three Terry Bligh, who was suffering from terminal cancer, was the first patient to be admitted to St Gemma’s in Moortown on the day it opened as a nine-bed unit on April 12, 1978.
Mr Bligh’s family said he had endured a harrowing seven-month stay on an orthopaedic ward at Leeds General Infirmary at a time when general hospitals did not provide adequate pain relief for terminally ill patients.
His daughter Helen Baldwin, of Adel, who works as a nurse at St James’s Hospital in Leeds, said: “He was in excruciating and uncontrolled pain in hospital.
“On the day he was admitted to St Gemma’s he was extremely unwell with a life expectancy of just a few weeks, but he lived for 14 months.
“They looked after and cared for him so well at St Gemma’s that he changed his outlook.
“They were just amazing people. They got on top of his pain which made his situation as bearable as it could be.
“He was so grateful because they made his last months as comfortable as possible.”
Mr Bligh, who ran television shop Bligh Sound and Vision on Westmoreland Street in Wakefield city centre, died at St Gemma’s aged 51 on June 3, 1979.
Mrs Baldwin added: “St Gemma’s is on a much bigger scale now, but the standard of care is still second to none.”
Mr Bligh’s widow Agnes, 88, of Roundhay spent some nights in a family room at St Gemma’s.
She said: “They were absolutely brilliant, they couldn’t have been better.”
The hospice was opened following an appeal launched by the hospice’s founders, the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, to raise £1m to transform the former St Gemma’s Private School and later expand hospice services.
St Gemma’s is inviting people to attend A Night to Remember’ at Leeds Town Hall on March 21, which will include performances and speeches about the hospice’s work.
Emily Clark, 40th anniversary manager at St Gemma’s, said: “St Gemma’s Hospice has been at the heart of the Leeds community since it opened, and it only continues to exist today because of everyone’s incredible generosity.
“We have a year-long calendar of events and projects to thank the community for their support and remember all those we’ve cared for.
“Everyone is welcome at Leeds Town Hall on March 21 for ‘A Night to Remember’, tickets are only £5 and it will be a really special evening including performances from our Hospice choir.”
Visit events.st-gemma.co.uk or call 0113 218 5550 for tickets.