Joseph Quinn was born in 1951 and grew up on Empress Road in Kensington with his mum, dad and five siblings. He lived on the same road for almost 70 years. He was a carpenter by trade and spent his life working in the building industry. We sat down with Joseph’s son, Chris, and daughter, Daisy, to talk about Joseph’s life and their family’s experience of the hospice.
Joseph met Chris and Daisy’s mum, Edith, in 1989 but they split up when the children were quite young and so Chris and Daisy lived with their mum. Although they were not together long, Joseph and Edith remained friends. They were a close-knit family, along with their two older half-sisters Holly and Rebecca, and they all enjoyed spending time together for family meals and Christmases.
When he was 11 years old, Chris moved in with his dad as he had more room and it was closer to all his friends. Daisy used to stay there at the weekends and in the school holidays. They enjoyed spending time together and used to spend a lot of time visiting his favourite place at New Brighton.
Joseph was fit and healthy his whole life until about a year before he died. Daisy said: “He was quite healthy even after his diagnosis five years ago, and was able to do pretty much everything he wanted to do.”
In February 2018, Joseph went to his GP with pains in his lung. They thought he had an infection or pleurisy and he was given antibiotics. When there was no improvement, Joseph was sent for an x-ray which revealed some fluid in his right lung. In May 2018, Joseph had a biopsy at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and they drained the fluid from his lung.
Then, in June 2018, Joseph was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, which is a cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, which fit with Joseph’s long career in the building trade. This type of cancer has a long latency period so it can take up to 30 years for symptoms to appear.
Daisy added: “Dad was offered various treatments, such as chemo and immunotherapy, but he turned it all down as he was feeling well in himself.”
Chris added: “He continued to have regular scans and every time the fluid built up again and he was feeling breathless, he would have his lung drained again. This continued for the first few years after his diagnosis, and he felt pretty well.”
In 2019, Joseph moved out of his home on Empress Road, as he was struggling with the stairs, and moved in to a flat on St. Gerard’s Close. This was a difficult time for him as he had lived on the same road his entire life but he settled in and made it home. He had some lovely neighbours and his sister, Bernadette, moved in across the road and helped him out with everything.
Chris said, “Bernadette was a god send to my Dad and us, as she cooked, cleaned and shopped for him. We would have been lost without her. It was because of her support that my Dad was able to stay living independently at home for as long as he did.”
The following year, Joseph was admitted to Aintree Hospital. Chris said: “Dad text us to say he couldn’t breathe so we went straight to see him and he was showing signs of sepsis.”
Joseph was in hospital for around 3 weeks. He was very poorly and the build-up of fluid was really bad. Chris and Daisy were told there wasn’t much they could do and he may only have a couple of weeks to live. The doctors drained his lung again and gave him some antibiotics. His condition improved and he was discharged, just before his 70th birthday. Chris said, “For Dad’s birthday, we all went on a special boat cruise around the Albert Dock, which was brilliant.”
Joseph continued to enjoy life when his health allowed him to, spending time on holiday with his friends and he even joined the family in Santorini, Greece, for Daisy’s wedding.
Eventually, the doctors were planning to give Joseph a chest drain catheter so that the district nurses could drain the fluid from his lung at home. However, before they could carry out this procedure, Joseph contracted an MRSA infection from the hospital and he received a letter of apology. On his next visit, the consultant informed him that the infection had actually saved his life as it had caused the fluid to consolidate in his lung.
In Oct 2022, Joseph was admitted to hospital again, due to severe breathlessness, and was given another couple of weeks to live. Once again, he recovered and was discharged. Chris added: “At this point, palliative care measures were put in place because we were told that he would not be able to have any more chest drains and so he was given oxygen to have at home.”
Joseph initially received palliative care from Woodlands Hospice and nurses visited him at home every day, but he gradually got worse and became very poorly, breathless and tired.
Daisy recalls, “The hospice consultant said if it was down to will power alone, dad would outlive us all but he had reached a point where, although his symptoms were being managed, the cancer had progressed and there was nothing more they could do. Dad was then admitted to hospital and he deteriorated very quickly.
Chris added: “I stayed with dad during this period in hospital. He lost his mental capacity and physical control practically overnight. He was sleeping for days at a time and we were preparing for him to die. He was then given medication through a syringe driver and, two days later, he perked up again. He was walking on the ward and eating pizza! It completely baffled everyone.”
Joseph’s conditioned deteriorated again and he was moved to St. Joseph’s Hospice on 16th March. Daisy said, “Dad was very nervous about going to St. Joseph’s Hospice, as he knew he wouldn’t be going home again, but he settled in quickly and we were able to spend lots of time with him. We took him for walks in the grounds and we even took my dog in to visit him. He loved being able to choose the food he wanted to eat and the nurses were so kind and compassionate.”
Chris added, “Life’s difficult enough and cancer can be cruel to patients and families so if there is ever a time you deserve to be cared for, it’s in your final days and the care dad received at St. Joseph’s Hospice was nothing short of outstanding. Dad had a very calm nature and was very positive; he took life as it came. He enjoyed having a little chat with staff and they enjoyed talking to him. He was so strong all the way through and the staff were absolutely amazing.”
Daisy said, “At St. Joseph’s, the staff had time to spend with him and talk to him. It is so different to a hospital. We spent long days there with him and we were all welcome, the kids and the dog too.”
Chris said: “Dad just loved being with people and he felt very positive about his life. He was so grateful to have been able to help his children to buy their homes, to see them pursue their careers, raise their families, and to have been able to see Daisy get married in Santorini. He always appreciated that many people don’t get that chance.
“He really loved the simple things in life and sometimes would go to the park and just sit on the bench for hours, he was so relaxed. One of his greatest quotes was, ‘You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step’, which got him through some difficult periods in his life.”
Joseph was at the hospice for just five days before he passed away on 21st March 2023. Chris said, “He’d had a busy day with all his friends and family around him. Once everyone had gone home, it was just me a him and I believe he chose to go at that point. He wasn’t in any pain and the nurse just said “don’t be afraid it’s time to let go”. It was a beautiful and intimate moment and I feel so blessed that I was able to be there with him.
“We scattered Dad’s ashes from a boat on the River Mersey on Father’s Day. It wasn’t a nice day but the sun came out and glistened on the water just at the point we scattered his ashes. We are going to put a memorial bench in his favourite spot in New Brighton where we loved spending time as children so that will be where we will go to remember him.”
In September 2023, Chris took part in our Strictly St. Joseph’s event to raise money for the hospice.
If you would like to share your family’s experience of the care they received at the hospice, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.