Hospital staff make Dusty's wish come true

Donald Dusty Miller at his party. Photo shows him in a hospital bed with balloons in the foreground.

Published on 10 May 2021

All great-grandfather Donald ‘Dusty’ Miller wanted for his 95th birthday was a party.

The Covid pandemic meant plans had to be put on hold when he reached the milestone in January.

But when the former welder and metalworker was admitted to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, and his condition meant he might not make it to celebrate turning 96, staff decided to make his wish come true.

The team on Rotary Ward, together with Dusty’s daughter Denise Leong and the rest of the family, arranged for him to have a very special party he could enjoy from his hospital bed.

Denise said: “The staff have been absolutely wonderful – they are an amazing group of people.

“We planned to have dad’s party as soon as we were allowed but things are so uncertain that when they suggested doing it at the hospital we thought it would be a lovely idea.

“We held it just outside and he was able to meet his newest great-granddaughter, who was born just a few weeks before he went into hospital.

“The whole family could be there and we all shed some happy tears.”

Dusty was first admitted to hospital more than two months ago, suffering from ulcerated legs and kidney problems. Doctors found a mass in his throat and had to insert a tube to help him breathe.

Although this makes it hard for him to talk, Denise believes it has given him valuable extra time with his loved ones.          

She said: “They gave him back to us and gave us some more time, and because of that we were able to give him his wish of having a party.

“We are all so grateful to have that memory to hold on to. He was so excited in the days leading up to the party and would constantly ask whether it was today.

“I took in a blazer and his army medals for him to wear, and made him a special hat, and when he was wheeled outside and saw everyone waiting he started crying.

“They have gone above and beyond what they had to do and I can’t tell you how much it’s meant to us and how kind they have been.”

Denise also praised the day-to-day care from the ward team, from playing Dusty a CD of him singing his own songs, to keeping the family constantly updated.

She said: “I think they all deserve a medal, to be honest. They always have time for us and I feel happy knowing they are looking after him, and that I know everything that’s going on.”

Nurse practitioner Victoria Bradford said: “Dusty has been with us for a while and it’s been a pleasure for the team to look after him.

“We knew how much he wanted a party and after talking to his family we felt it would be best to go ahead while he was still well enough to enjoy it.

“It was a really emotional day for him and for the staff, and we felt so proud to be able to make a difference for this lovely gentleman and his family.”