“A very surreal experience”

January 15th, 2024 Posted in Blog
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In July 2023, Nicola Zaki took the leap of a lifetime by jumping off a plane to perform a tandem skydive in memory of her mother, who died at the Hospice in April.

Nicola’s story unfolds against the backdrop of her mother’s battle with terminal bowel cancer, a diagnosis delivered in July 2022 with a prognosis of three to six months left to live. While the family opted to care for her at home, her condition deteriorated after Easter 2023. She then found solace in the compassionate care of Rowans Hospice for the final three weeks of her life. 

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Once at the hospice, the atmosphere shifted for the family, allowing them to be present as a family rather than caregivers. Nicola’s mother, known for her vibrant spirit, maintained her positive outlook, even adorning colourful jumpers and lipstick during her hospice stay. Nicola fondly recalls her mother’s light-hearted remark that concern should only arise if she stopped wearing lipstick—a poignant  indicator that manifested in her final week. 

Reflecting on her mother’s passing, Nicola recollects the serene atmosphere cultivated by the Hospice, offering a peaceful space for the family to bid their farewells. Nicola stayed behind with her daughter, a hospice nurse, to learn about the respectful handling of her mother’s body. This tranquillity stood in stark contrast to the rushed and clinical atmosphere of a hospital ward. 

That’s the environment people should be allowed to die in, not in a hospital ward.

Nicola asserts.

“We were very fortunate she got to spend her last three weeks at Rowans Hospice. I could not fault anything, when mum was here for those three weeks.

 The bedrooms are beautiful, we loved watching Colin the pheasant outside, and being able to come and spend that last week with her. In that last week she didn’t like waking up alone, but here you’re in a lovely environment. We felt very much at home.”

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In July 2023, inspired by her experience, Nicola participated in a tandem skydive, raising an impressive £2,250 to support local Hospice care. Undeterred, hercommitment to fundraising continued as part of the Lee-on-the-Solent Golf Club, which chose Rowans Hospice as its Charity of the Year. Together, they raised an outstanding £16,000 for the Hospice.

Nicola described the whole experience as “very surreal”:


When you first jump, you’re just free falling, but when they open the parachute you go back up through the clouds, I didn’t think that was going to happen, but at that stage I thought that my mum was up there somewhere, and it felt very, very peaceful. I felt closer to her.

Nicola also described the support she and her family received as “a huge, big network of support and that’s why we wanted mum to come here.”  


If you have been inspired by Nicola’s story and would like to share your story or fundraise for Rowans Hospice, get in touch with our Marketing or Fundraising Teams: 

To share your story – marketing@rowanshospice.co.uk 

To fundraise – fundraising@rowanshospice.co.uk  

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