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A Bristol nurse whose “legend” dad died with coronavirus is raising money to buy iPads for hospitals so families can be with loved ones in their final moments.
Aimee Hilton, who lives in Yate, has spoken about how difficult it was not being able to see her father while he was in the Royal Cornwall Hospital with Covid-19.
But with the use of technology she was able to see him “for the last 6 hours of his life” which was “something incredibly special”.
Now Aimee plans to buy more iPads for hospitals across the region to help other families overcome the emotional strain of not being able to physically see their relatives.
Aimee’s dad, James Spalding, was admitted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in March after having a reaction to a treatment he was receiving for skin cancer.
It was there it's assumed the 72-year-old contracted coronavirus.
Mr Spalding lived near Fowey with his wife, Aimee’s step-mum.
His daughter has described him as a real “Cornish legend”.
Having been a nurse for two decades, one of the hardest things for Aimee was not being able to see her dad.
She said: “Dad was a technophobe and broke the very basic phone he had. This left us pestering the ever-patient staff for updates on his progress."
His entire admission I pleaded with staff to let me come to the ward, see him and help care for him. They are under strict guidance that would not allow visitors, and they all managed my distress with care and compassion.
Staff at the RCH told Aimee’s family they’d recently bought an iPad and were using it to Skype the loved ones of people in the hospital.
When doctors advised her that James' health had declined, Aimee spent six hours sitting with him via the iPad before the battery died.
To be able to see him, for him to see me and his grandchildren was something incredibly special. The technology enabled me to be present for the last six hours of his life. Although I couldn’t hold his hand, I could play him music and reassure him when he needed it. I will never know the impact or comfort this offered dad, but I know it will offer me comfort in years to come.
She said a key lesson for students "is how we holistically care for dying patients and their relatives." The pandemic, she said, "has changed significant aspects of the gold standard care we strive to teach and deliver."
Not being able to physically be with her dad therefore went against everything she has practised in her 20 years of working for the NHS.
Being a nurse I struggled with the distance and not being able to physically care for my dad in his last weeks but it could have been made much worse if I couldn’t have been there for the last hours.
After losing her dad, Aimee launched a fundraiser in the hope of buying another iPad for the unit at Treliske, to give "all families" the opportunity to see their loved ones.
Along with her husband Adam and brother Paul, she plans to cycle from the Bristol Suspension Bridge to her dad’s cottage in Tywardreath, near Fowey, when the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Already, nearly £7,000 pounds has been donated, which means Aimee can buy iPads for hospitals across the West Country.
We are aiming to complete this at the end of May, but if the lockdown does not permit it we will all cycle the 162 miles locally.
As well as giving the iPads to acute hospital trusts, Aimee has set up donations to St Julias & Mount Edgcumbe Hospice in Cornwall, Dorothy House and St Peters Hospice in Bristol.