Covid-19 robbed Barbara Mellor of the chance to see her large family and left her lonely and depressed – but being able to attend Fair Oaks Day Hospice means she now feels ‘on top of the world’.
The 78-year-old widow, who lives in Bescot, has four children aged from 49 to 53, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Barbara has lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for most of her life. Struggling for breath, she is in a wheelchair as she can only walk a few steps before getting breathless.
She is also in remission after recovering from lung cancer, for which she underwent radiotherapy three years ago, but suffers lots of chest infections.
The pandemic robbed her of the opportunity to see her family and lockdown confined her indoors.
Regular outbreaks of the virus at the sheltered accommodation where she lives meant even the communal garden was out of bounds for long spells at a time.
The loneliness of these lengthy periods proved extremely stressful for Barbara, and she lost a lot of weight.
“I started to feel low in myself,” said Barbara, who worked nights as a care assistant until she was 72 and has been a widow for 30 years after the death of steel roller husband Bob. “I lost three and a half stone through nerves and anxiety in lockdown and I couldn’t get out of my flat.
“I started to go off my food and I was in and out of hospital. The only people I saw was my son Robert and my daughter-in-law Elaine, who came once a week to do my washing, change my bed and do my housework.”
Barbara saw a psychiatrist, underwent scans on her heart and bones and had a various procedures as medics tried to find out what was wrong.
But the answer was in front of them. “I pleaded with the doctor not to let me come home as I felt so low being on my own all the time,” she recalled.
“I was getting depressed and I told my COPD nurse so she recommended coming to the Day Hospice and I haven’t looked back – it’s absolutely fantastic and the nurses are lovely.
“Every one of them is fantastic and they always have a smile on their face – if you haven’t got one they want to know why!”
Having started her visits before Covid and since it restarted after lockdown, Barbara has been attending Fair Oaks for two years.
“Coming here puts my mind at ease and I really enjoy it,” she added.
Barbara loves to chat with the other patients and is an enthusiastic participant in the quizzes and arts and crafts sessions the staff put on.
“I hold my own!” said Barbara when asked how she fares in the quizzes. “When I leave here, I feel on top of the world.
“I have met people who have become friends I can talk to and it really lifts me every time I come.
“I seem to be coming out of my shell more, like I used to be before – it means so much to come here.
“If they took this away, I would be really depressed; it’s a real lifeline and I don’t know what I’d do without it.”