Nova Scotia·Updated

N.S. woman wants to make it easier for families to hug loved ones at the end

Taff Cheeseman from Branch LaHave, N.S., raised money for a special bed at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater in honour of her late husband, Rick Cheeseman.

'To be able to actually just lay in each other's arms, it meant more than anything in this world'

Taff and Rick Cheeseman were able to embrace for the first time in nearly two weeks after hospital staff arranged to bring in a bigger bed this summer. (Taff Cheeseman/Facebook)

All Taff Cheeseman wanted to do was wrap her arms around her husband.

But the hospital bed where Rick Cheeseman spent some of his final days this summer wasn't big enough for two people. 

Rick was diagnosed with stage four rectal cancer in 2017 and was in too much pain for his wife to lie next to him in a regular-sized bed at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater.

"I spent every single night sitting in a chair, just a hospital chair next to his bed, just holding his hand and trying to get [into the bed] as much as I could, and I couldn't," Taff Cheeseman, from Branch LaHave, N.S., told CBC's Mainstreet on Thursday.

She spent nearly two weeks in that chair until staff at the hospital found a bariatric bed for the couple to use. 

It's larger than a standard hospital bed but not designed for two people. It wasn't exactly comfortable, but Cheeseman said that hardly mattered.

"I loved it, and I would not trade those moments for anything in the world, but it was definitely not comfortable. It was not easy for me to get in and out of," she said. 

Designed for patients to be with loved ones

Cheeseman wanted to make it easier for other families to be close to their loved ones at the end.

She started a fundraising campaign in her late husband's name to bring the first palliative care "cuddle bed" to the South Shore Regional Hospital.

The beds are similar in size to king beds and designed specifically for patients to be near their loved ones.

The South Shore Regional Hospital doesn't have a cuddle bed right now because, without a dedicated palliative care unit, there's no place to store one, said Alison Clements with the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore. 

She added that the hospital has worked to find storage space to keep a new bed.

If there had been a cuddle bed at the hospital this summer, Cheeseman said her three kids could have fit in next to their dad.

"I would like to see it made available so that other people don't have to go through the same thing that I went through, in the sense that I couldn't hold my loved one when he needed me the most." 

Raised $22,250 in 13 days

She officially launched her fundraising campaign, Cuddles from Rick, through the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore in late November, and 13 days later had raised the $22,250 needed to buy the bed. 

Clements said the new bed will likely be delivered to the hospital in early 2021. 

Rick died in late August at the age of 48. 

"My husband was a hugger, very much a hugger," Cheeseman said. "Anybody that ever received a hug from Rick could totally understand what I mean when we say that he was a hugger, and when he loved you, he loved you deeply.

"And there's nothing that would mean more to him than to have a cuddle bed made available for others to feel that same type of power." 

A photo of the couple embracing was taken soon after Cheeseman crawled into the hospital bed next to her husband for the first time this summer. 

"For us to be able to actually just lay in each other's arms, it meant more than anything in this world."

With files from CBC's Mainstreet


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