St Luke's Hospice Appeal: Family of Sheffield midwife with 'infectious smile' will 'never forget' amazing care she received

The family of a hugely popular Sheffield midwife say they will never forget the 'amazing' care she received at St Luke's Hospice.

Tuesday, 10th October 2017, 3:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 5:48 am
Katie with her sons Dylan and Alfie

Katie Justice died days before her 40th birthday, just three months after receiving the awful news that the cancer she thought was behind her had returned with a vengeance.

The mother-of-two, from Woodseats, remained positive even after the terminal diagnosis - telling loved ones she felt blessed to have been able to live her life 'to the full', even if it was only 'half a life'.

Katie was a midwife at the Jessop Wing

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She spent her last two-and-a-half weeks at St Luke's, in Whirlow, where Katie's little sister Emily Clark said the 'lovely' team had made her final days as comfortable and happy as possible.

"It's an amazing place. When Katie first went to look around the hospice, before she moved in, she came back and told us how it was like a hotel and she loved it," said Emily.

"It was so important she knew there was a nice, comfortable place she could go. It wasn't like going to a dingy hospital which felt very medical.

"The nurses were lovely and welcoming from the start. We knew we could visit whenever we wanted and they always knew who we were. It was such a personal service.

Emily Clark and friends during the Night Strider half marathon they completed in Katie's memory

"It allowed us to spend quality time with her, not being her carers, just her family.

"Before Katie went there, I must have driven past St Luke's hundreds of times without giving it much thought. I almost took it for granted.

"But when we needed it, it was there, and we're so grateful it exists. I think we as her family will support it forever now because we will never forget everything they did there for Katie and for us."

Emily praised staff at the hospice for going out of their way to make Katie's last days as special as possible, from preparing specially-requested meals to providing a hot tub in which she could bathe with stars twinkling above.

Katie with her husband Matt and sons Dylan and Alfie

She showed her appreciation by walking the St Luke's Night Strider half-marathon through Sheffield on Saturday evening with a group of friends who had known Katie.

Between them, Emily and her friends Emma Bridge, Laura Reynolds, Lucy Thorp and Jo Walker, who donned pink wigs and sported neon face paint and glow sticks during the walk, have already raised a staggering £4,600 for the hospice - more than 11 times their original target.

Emily said the huge sum was testament not just to her sister's popularity but to how dear a place St Luke's holds in the hearts of so many Sheffielders.

"We never imagined we'd raise so much, especially having only signed up a week before it took place," she said.

Friends and former colleagues said Katie would be remembered for her kindness and 'infectious smile'

"It's amazing to get that much money for St Luke's, and being able to read all the lovely comments about Katie from those who donated has been a massive comfort. It means so much to know so many people cared and loved her.

"The atmosphere on the night was amazing. I felt quite emotional when we got to Tudor Square and saw all the walkers, many of whom were doing it in memory of someone they'd lost.

"I've spoken to a few other people whose relatives stayed at St Luke's and like us they can't praise it highly enough. I don't know what we would have done if it wasn't there."

Katie, who was married to Matt and had two children, Dylan, aged 10, and nine-year-old Alfie, worked as a midwife at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital's Jessop Wing.

She had previously been a bank manager but settled upon the dramatic career change during maternity leave for her second child because she loved working with people so much.

After knuckling down at Sheffield Hallam University to qualify, she made a huge impression at the Jessop Wing doing a job Emily said she 'adored'.

Katie was only diagnosed with terminal cancer 12 weeks before she died

Former colleagues and the many parents she helped joined a chorus of tributes on the JustGiving page, praising the 'genuine', 'loving' and 'beautiful soul' who had touched their lives.

She remained at work 12 weeks before her death and was still swimming 100 lengths twice a week and juggling a busy family life before the devastating diagnosis turned her world upside down.

At a routine GP appointment in July, she learned the breast cancer she thought she had beaten two years ago had returned and spread to her liver.

Despite the shock, she refused to feel sorry for herself and was determined to make the most of her time left with her family and friends before her death on September 26.

"Very quickly after her diagnosis, she was able to accept her situation," said Emily.

"She was genuinely able to feel grateful for what she had. She told me she would rather have had half a life lived to the full than a whole life where she was miserable.

"She was obviously devastated not to have more time to see her boys grow up but she was grateful for the time she'd had with them and felt lucky to have had an amazing life.

"I remember her telling me after her diagnosis that you have to enjoy your life because you never know what's coming, and she certainly followed that advice herself."

Emily described her sister, whose funeral took place on Monday, as 'the most caring, kind and thoughtful person you could hope to meet'.

"She was an amazing sister and friend, and a brilliant mother. She was always thinking about other people and doing things for them," she added.

Those sentiments were echoed by the hundreds of people who have donated to St Luke's in her memory.

Julia Catherine paid tribute to 'an amazing lady who will be greatly missed', while Kay Underwood called her 'a beautiful woman inside and out' and Holly Hickman said Katie would always be remembered as 'the midwife who never stopped smiling'.

Nicola Hughes wrote: "I think you've left a little bit of your sparkle and infectious smile on everyone you've met, Katie. If we were all a little bit like you the world would be a better place."

Paula Schofield, Head of Midwifery at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: "Katie was a dear friend and a talented midwife; she will be greatly missed by all her colleagues at the Jessop Wing.

"Sheffield Teaching Hospitals were very lucky to employ Katie as a midwife; I know how well her midwifery skills were respected by the women and the families she cared for.

"I was personally full of admiration for the courage and resolve Katie demonstrated following her diagnosis and during her treatment, and her determination to come back to work.

"We extend our deepest condolences to her family at this very sad time."

* You can still donate in memory of Katie at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/emily-clark21.

It's not too late to donate to St Luke's in Katie's memory
Katie was a midwife at the Jessop Wing
Emily Clark and friends during the Night Strider half marathon they completed in Katie's memory
Katie with her husband Matt and sons Dylan and Alfie
Friends and former colleagues said Katie would be remembered for her kindness and 'infectious smile'
Katie was only diagnosed with terminal cancer 12 weeks before she died
It's not too late to donate to St Luke's in Katie's memory