Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 16.56.46Josie Fenwick is a regular at the Willow Burn Hospice – and she knows what that means.

She stays for respite care every 12 weeks to give her daughter, Katrina, a break.  She is totally dependent on her daughter, the staff at Willow Burn, her medication, oxygen bottle and wheelchair.

But despite suffering from a debilitating respiratory disease for more than 10 years, Josie’s story is not one of sadness.  She has found friendship, understanding and a purpose at Willow Burn.

“I can’t do sponsored walks or runs but I wanted to do something.  I couldn’t think of anything so I shaved off my hair and raised nearly £1000,” said Josie.

“I felt over the moon.  I felt I’d made a difference.”

To raise money in the run up to Christmas Josie makes wreaths, cards and gift boxes using the dexterity she developed working on factory assembly lines.

Her aim is to do all she can to maintain Willow Burn’s current service and contribute towards its £2.2m appeal to build a new in-patient hospice. She gives £50 at the end of each stay.

But it was not always like this. “When I first came here I cried because I thought I was coming here to die.  Then I cried when I left because I wanted to come back. Now when I go home I start to write the date I’m in next,” said Josie, who is 63 and a widow who lives in Catchgate near Stanley.

“I just wish people could come and see that it’s not what’s in their mind. It’s the people who work here.  They’re out of this world.  They’re special.”

For Josie that special care is provided by the Willow Burn staff even when she returns home. “When you’re on your own and you’re poorly it feels worse.  Through the night if I can’t breathe properly it makes me frightened.  They tell me to ring – any time night or day. They talk me through it and I’m OK.  If it wasn’t for that I would have been in and out of hospital all the time because of panic attacks,” she said.

Josie has made many close friends during her years at the hospice. She has helped them face death and also become reconciled to what the future holds for her: “I was frightened of dying because I don’t know whether I’m going to die tomorrow or next week and I’ve got a daughter and grand-daughter. And now I don’t think about it. You need to get it out of your head because it’s going to bring you down even more.”

When her time does come, Josie knows where she wants to be.

“If you’re poorly and you’re ready to die you can fill out a form and say you want to come here.  I got my name down straight away,” she said.

Willow Burn Hospice’s fundraising continues with a golf day at Slaley Hall in Northumberland on 24 September.  Details are available through the charity’s Income Generation and Marketing Manager Katherine Luke via kluke@willowburnhospice.org.ukor fundraising@willowburnhospice.org.uk.