One Monday morning in the autumn of 2019 we received an early caller to Matthew’s House. As we were not yet open, one of the team spoke to the guest and reminded him of our opening times as he was a regular. The guest was a man who seemed more confused than normal and not his usual self. Within the first few minutes the guest collapsed on the doorstep with a seizure. Following this, he lost consciousness and went into cardiac arrest. The volunteers called 999, whilst a member of the team began to render first aid to the gentleman. It became necessary to commence chest compressions and one of the volunteers ran to the railway station where there was an accessible defibrillator.
Approximately 15 minutes passed before the paramedics arrived. They took over, but our team member was asked to continue compressions as they setup and did what they needed to do. Eventually they were able to find a pulse and prepared to move him into the ambulance and take him to hospital. Sadly with the length of time unconscious, the gentleman was put on life support which lasted more than 7 days before it was decided by the medical staff and his family that they had to withdraw the support and he passed away in hospital soon after.
The guest was a lonely and vulnerable man. After he was transferred to hospital the Matthew’s House team took care of his possessions and used his mobile phone to make contact with his family – all who lived a very long distance away. As a consequence of this, the family, including his children, were able to travel to Swansea and visit him at the bedside and say their goodbyes. The guest’s brother visited Matthew’s House the day following his passing and thanked the entire team for their care, compassion and swift action which led to his brother surviving for a week, enabling them all time to say goodbye and thanking them for being part of his life.
For us it was a precious reminder that every guest almost certainly has a history and a family somewhere. They are somebody’s wife, husband, child, brother, sister, uncle or auntie. Often, for a number of reasons, the families have not been able to maintain contact despite their best efforts; sometimes due to the guests’ lifestyles or other challenges. Yet in the end and at the end, family really matters. Love matters. Time matters. Goodbye matters.
On numerous occasions at Matthew’s House we have been contacted by family members of a guest that has passed away. Each time they have thanked our team of volunteers for the hospitality, warmth, love, time and compassion we have shown their loved one during difficult days. In each situation, whether an emergency or just a normal day, we have simply tried to do our best. We know it makes a difference. We know that even in a tragedy like this one, playing a small part in helping that guest stay alive for a short while longer played a big part in helping that family say goodbye.
Without a home like Matthew’s House, where all are welcome, we would never have had that gentleman even knock at the door at all. Thank you for standing with us in our greatest joys and our toughest trials – this truly is a remarkable project and family.