“Karen drew up her first will when she turned sixty, in 2016.

There were no surprises. As a long-time volunteer dog walker at Battersea, and a donor to animal welfare charities, the will reflected her interests. We didn’t expect to have to change it at all.

Except … four years later a global pandemic almost broke the NHS. Legions of health workers fought for our lives even as their genius help developed the vaccines that turned the tide.

At this time, we started hearing about the conditions in which these heroes worked. Lots of them didn’t have common rooms; many had no kitchens; there was little privacy. There was nowhere to grieve; nowhere to walk, no place to escape to. It sounded awful, but what could we do?

And then … in September 2021, Karen got an unexpected cancer diagnosis. It was incurable but treatable, so the oncology teams at Kingston Hospital and the Royal Marsden went to work. Unfortunately, the melanoma had already swept through her body. The treatment weakened her so much she contracted a serious pneumonia which landed her in Kingston Hospital for two weeks.

It was the time of the Omicron mutation. For two weeks in respiratory, Karen only saw mine and her brother Steve’s scared and concerned eyes above the ever-present masks.

Though she recovered, the oncologists told us her body couldn’t take any more treatment. The respiratory team worked with the palliative care team who liaised with the discharge team. Suddenly Karen was home for Christmas and rescue dog Pepper and I would take it from here.

Karen realised that knowing you’re dying changes everything. Those pension plans? That will? They can become a potent force for good.

In the three months left to her Karen reviewed it all. We discussed the End. I got to write a eulogy that the subject approved! There was nothing to fear now. Talking about Death wasn’t going to summon it; it was on its way, and it would let us know when it was near.

So, Karen made changes to her will. One of her charities already has the annual turnover of a small country. We agreed they could do without her money. But with her recent experiences still fresh, she wanted to find a way to help improve the working lives of the hospital staff even by a little bit.

We had both heard about the work of Kingston Hospital Charity. She didn’t want her money to go on a clinical building or machinery. She wanted to invest in the wellbeing of those people who worked to save her. Karen exhumed the old will and re-directed money to Kingston Hospital Charity. I am sure she would be pleased knowing that her gift has helped provide a new garden and meeting area for staff.

Leaving a legacy like this gave Karen the chance to say thank you not just to the staff at Kingston Hospital but also to a National Health Service that was always there for her through injury and illness.”

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