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Hospice there to help

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 05:00 09/05/2012
Hospice
JASON OXENHAM
FAMILY SUPPORT: Herne Bay mum Karin Pepping and her children, from left: Elia, 7, Leise, 13, Tom, 8, and Leo Simpson, 5, will never forget the man who played the most important role in their lives.

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Karin Pepping still gets teary-eyed when she remembers her soulmate who died from kidney cancer at just 41 years old.

But it was the care that Keith Simpson received from Mercy Hospice Auckland that turns her tears of sorrow to those of appreciation.

The Auckland hospice cared for 988 patients last year but has an annual shortfall of $2.3 million after receiving district health board funding.

The charity is able to continue through its annual Hospice Awareness Week, held May 14 to 20, and generous contributions from supporters like Ms Pepping.

She and her four children don't go a day without remembering Mr Simpson who was a light in their lives. They are eternally grateful to the hospice for its support.

Mr Simpson's 2007 diagnoses came as a shock to the Herne Bay family.

"He was really fit so we had no idea. Then we found it had gone everywhere. His spine, liver, everywhere," Ms Pepping says. "He had been given between six weeks and three months to live."

The hospice began supporting the family straight away although Mr Simpson was adamant he was going to beat the disease, Ms Pepping says.

"They said it's not just about the end, it's about the support. It's about making sure you're medically managed and also family support."

Four months after the diagnosis Mr Simpson's cancer took a turn for the worse.

"We did try a number of things but we realised nothing would work and he became paralysed – it was in his spine."

She says it was at that point that the hospice became quite "entrenched in our lives".

"They took on the role of not only palliative care but support. They would come in and chat to him for hours.

"The hospice would book in a week respite for Keith and that was just so necessary," she says. "Being able to sleep properly and not have to worry about the care of someone was a break because it is quite stressful. But I would never give that up."

The charitable organisation saw the same need for Ms Pepping's four children and involved them in art workshops.

In 2008 Mr Simpson's health deteriorated very quickly while on a respite holiday.

"The morning he went in I remember telling the doctor he wasn't that good," she says. "It became apparent that it was the end very quickly."

The next day Ms Pepping received a call that it would be today her husband would die.

"I invited everyone to be there and the hospice gave us all the space we needed," she says . "If there was a way to go, that was a nice way to die.

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"He was surrounded by friends and he was comfortable – it was as good as it could be."

Ms Pepping has been more involved with the hospice since Mr Simpson's death, taking part in the Strawberry Festival, the Tile Campaign and regularly donating.

"We've begun an annual party where friends of ours in bands will play and people pay an admission that raises funds for the hospice," she says. "The first one was last year and the next one will be in July."

Ms Pepping says it's cool to leave a legacy linked to her husband and to raise funds for the charity that helped sustain his life.

Mercy Hospice Auckland chief executive Lynda Smith says the charity's awareness week is designed to highlight the work undertaken by the hospice team and the importance of raising funds.

"We are excited to launch the Hospice Cuppa campaign this year and hope that as many Aucklanders as possible will get involved," she says.

"It's a great way to connect with friends and family and at the same time add value to our service. Thank you Auckland for your support."

Go to mercyhospice.org.nz for more information.

- Auckland City Harbour News

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