Nova Scotia

'It's quite emotional': Annapolis Valley hospice on track for spring opening

The shell of the hospice in Kentville, N.S., is finally complete, allowing the volunteers who have spent years trying to make it a reality walk into the building for the first time.

'We worked really hard for this to happen,' says Fern Brydon, who will manage the hospice

Fern Brydon, left, and Diana Patterson were emotional as they walked into the hospice for the first time. They've each spent more than a decade trying to make the project a reality. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Fern Brydon first heard about a proposal for a hospice in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley 26 years ago.

Last week, she held Diana Patterson's hand as the two women walked through the doors of the Kentville hospice set to open in the spring of 2020.

"It's quite emotional to walk in there knowing that we worked really hard for this to happen," said Brydon, who will be the manager of the home. "It really was a gift from our own community to our own community."

The shell is now complete and the building is airtight, allowing construction crews to stay on schedule as they finish the interior over the winter.

Diana Patterson, chair of the Valley Hospice Foundation, spent the last 16 years trying to get to this point.

The Valley hospice was built to look like a bird. The Valley Hospice Foundation wanted to make sure the building had character to give it a warm feeling. (Submitted by Jamie Robertson)

"I'm tearing up just thinking about that [groundbreaking] ceremony we had a year ago and look at it now," she said.

The hospice is a true passion project in the area, as countless people and businesses have spent decades trying to make it a reality.

The foundation raised $4 million for the construction. The building, which is tucked into a wooded area of the Valley Regional Hospital property, will be staffed by health authority workers. The foundation is also starting to recruit and train volunteers who will work with the 20 or so staff.

Many who worked on the project are motivated by their own stories of the loss of a loved one. There's no palliative care ward in Kentville, so patients at the end of their lives are sometimes placed in busy hospital units.

"It's hard for the patients and family and staff," said Brydon. "For staff, I think this has been a long time coming. I hear almost every week when we go and do our palliative rounds, staff are very excited."

Construction workers start to put up drywall in the entrance to the Valley hospice. Now that the exterior is sealed off, they don't have to deal with weather delays as they finish the interior. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

When it's open, the hospice will have room for 10 patients and family will be allowed to stay with them. Brydon and Patterson are determined to give them a comforting experience.

"I want to be able to see the first patient walk into a room and for the patient to walk into that room and go, 'This is so nice. I could definitely live my last days here,'" said Brydon.

The foundation wanted to make sure the building wasn't a big box or had the feel of a hospital. Instead, it's shaped like a bird. It has high ceilings and a large fireplace in the main entry.

Siding will soon go up on the exterior of the new Valley hospice, which is located on the property of the Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Furniture is being picked out that can be moved around the rooms, so each family can customize their space.

The rooms have sliding doors and access to individual patios that look into the woods.

"When you open that front door, you want to feel, 'This is my home. This is my last home,'" said Patterson.

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About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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