Light Up a Life 2019. Tracie’s family to switch on Wirral Hospice St John’s lights for Light up a Life in memory of husband, dad and grandad, Allan #lightupalife #patientcare #wirralhospice #thankyou

Light up a Life has been raising much needed funds for Wirral Hospice St John’s ever since the first service in 1996. It’s a really special time of year which brings together our Wirral community to remember their loved ones. This year the hospice gardens will be lit with 10,000 beautiful lights on Sunday 8th December.

Allan with FamilyThe lights will be switched on by Tracie Powell in memory of her husband Allan. Tracie will switch the lights on with her daughter, Kerry, and grandchildren, Morgan, 17, and Jeyda, 10. (Pictured is Tracie, Allan, daughter Kerry,  Morgan, Kerry’s husband, Tom and young Jeyda at a family wedding).

Allan had been feeling ill for a while before he was taken to hospital in February 2017 after collapsing with what turned out to be a perforated bowel. A little time later the family were given the shattering news that Allan had bowel cancer and it had progressed to stage 4. He was determined to be around for as long as possible and underwent chemotherapy over several months to make the most of his time with the family.

They all describe Allan as a fighter and, often when seriously ill, he would rally and be back to feeling as well as could be, enjoying quality time watching movies with Morgan and playing games with Jeyda.

Allan’s first referral to Wirral Hospice St John’s was in April 2018 and he was admitted for three weeks. Once he was made more comfortable he was able to return home to be with Tracie and the family. He also attended the hospice Wellbeing Centre for a few sessions which gave Tracie a much needed break while Allan was able to spend time with other patients enjoying the camaraderie and activities. Allan was an avid reader and was also able to spend quiet moments reading whilst at the hospice.

In July 2018 Allan was admitted onto our Inpatient Unit again. He received the specialist care and support which would give Tracie, Kerry and the grandchildren some peace of mind and precious time together. They enjoyed picnics in the sunshine in the hospice garden and talked about family holidays. Their Yorkshire terrier, Alfie, visited the Hospice too and enjoyed a cuddle from Allan.  Sadly, Allan died on 29th July, 2018 and is dearly missed by his loving family.Allan with Alfie

Tracie has received bereavement support from the hospice and has made new friends through the bereavement group. She has also joined the hospice as a volunteer.

On being approached to switch on the lights Tracie was delighted to accept, she said;

“The hospice was magnificent with, and for, Allan. The help I have personally received since has been wonderful. We all feel honoured to be able to switch on the lights, as we know it means so much for many families living in, and with family ties to, Wirral. Allan, the family and I had supported Light up a Life previously, remembering other loved ones and now we can play a part, in memory of Allan, to help people with their own special memories.”

Allan with Kerry, Jeyda and Morgan

The carol service, which is free to attend will be held in the hospice gardens on Sunday 8th December at 5.30pm. People start to gather from around 4pm to remember their loved ones.  For each light that is sponsored a loved one’s name is included in the hospice books of honour and people receive a Light up a Life card in their memory.  

The books are on display in the hospice from 4pm on 8th December and will remain on display throughout the Christmas period.

For a suggested minimum donation of £5 per light you can sponsor a Light in memory of a loved one. Light up a Life keepsake tree decorations are also available for a donation from £5.00 (including postage).  To donate to the campaign please call 0151 343 0778 or visit www.wirralhospice.org/light-up-a-life to make a donation online.

We also invite businesses to sponsor a light from £50.00. All businesses are included in the event programme and in the books of honour.

Julia Evans, Fundraising Manager said, “We’re so grateful to Tracie, Kerry, Morgan and Jeyda for agreeing to share their story and for switching on our hospice lights. Each light represents someone special who is loved and remembered whether people have a connection to the hospice or not. I would like to thank everyone who has supported Light up a Life over the past 23 years. Your support has helped us to care for our patients and their loved ones.”

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Spotlight On: Stephanie and Josh Reynolds. Mother and Son combo sign up for #muckymudder

Steph and JoshStephanie Reynolds and son, Josh, 24, are taking on their first fundraiser together in Wirral Hospice St John’s brand new Mucky Mudder event on Sunday 29th September.

Steph explains, “My sister, Trish, and her friend, Paula, take on lots of runs and other events for charity, and it was Trish who convinced us to join them on the challenge in memory of our sister, Maria.”

I went to meet Steph and Josh to see how their training was going (you don’t need to train too hard as you can go at your own pace, but they both have a personal wish to make a bit of an effort).

Maria and StephMaria (pictured here with Steph) lived with autism and learning disabilities, and when the aforementioned Trish and brother, Richie, all came along (all within 12 years), Steph took on the role of ‘sibling matriarch’.

Maria attended Wirral’s outstanding Claremount School, which is predominantly for children with special educational needs.

In April 2017 Maria was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She underwent a complex whipple procedure (also known as pancreaticoduodenemectomy) procedure later that July.

In December 2017, Maria was referred to Wirral Hospice St John’s inpatients as a means to control the pain and discomfort that her condition was causing.

MariaMaria died in January 2018.

Stephanie says, “Wirral Hospice St John’s was absolutely marvellous for Maria. The nurses were so sensitive to Maria’s particular needs.”

As well as Josh, Steph has a daughter, Gemma and grandson, Lewis, 12, and there’s a new grandchild on the way!

Steph and Josh are collecting sponsorship and also preparing for the actual Mucky Mudder day. I ask them how,

I rode my bike 33 miles on the weekend”, Josh says, almost apologetically. He describes a route taking in much of the Wirral peninsula’s coastal routes and I’m thinking, ‘don’t apologise Josh, Mucky Mudder is a different, fun, kind of test but you’re obviously well equipped to get around. I wonder if he may be ‘up’ for a longer bike ride in the future, London to Paris maybe!’

Steph uses the ladies gym at Hearts Health Club in Wallasey, and although it’s her first fundraiser, I feel confident she’s going to have a lot of laughs and is more than capable of making her way around 5k of muddy obstacles, landscapes and ponds.

“We’re committed now” she says, “and along with Josh, Trish and Paula (and over 150 other participants) we’re going to be keeping in mind exactly why we’re doing it. For the wonderful Wirral Hospice St John’s and in memory of  Maria.”

Have a Muddy good one, Steph and Josh!

Author: Billy Howard

If you’d like to take on Mucky Mudder for Wirral Hospice St John’s, there are still some places available.

For more details and to sign up go to www.wirralhospice.org/muckymudder or call Sarah on 0151-343-0778

The Wirral Hospice Sharks, making a splash for the care and support of our patients and their loved ones #wirralhospice #hospiceheroes #nurses #wirral #hospiceheroes #fundraising #swimming #deemile

SharksSometime last summer, inspired by our joint Inpatients ward manager, Jill Littlewood’s, grandaughter, and the young son of our infection control nurse Chantelle Hardman , we thought it would be a bit of fun to gather a team of doctors, nurses, other staff, volunteers and an ambassador of Wirral Hospice St John’s (our president, His Honour, John Roberts,) to take on the Baby Shark Challenge.

It was a mini-phenomenon! Wirral Hospice St John’s was featured on BBC Breakfast, on Lorraine, a host of other news media sites and had over 500,000 views via FaceBook. We basked in the glow of welcome publicity and enjoyed the many positive comments and affirmations we subsequently received.

It was a bit of fun and underlined our everyday humanity at the hospice. Such one-time things are to be cherished and then ultimately fade to become a, distant, fond memory. We all, as life dictates, move onto the next important event or incident.

Oh No, not at Wirral Hospice St John’s. What is it about that song that has remained in the psyché of many of those who took part? Can’t we just leave it as that? One moment in time, (apologies to Whitney Houston) and just move on?

sharks 5No, no, no, no, NO! The aforementioned Jill Littlewood (pictured here, on dry land, with our famous Inpatients drinks trolley) just would not let it go. Searching for an event to raise some funds for the hospice, and in discussion with our former head of clinical services, Judi, Jill just had to go and suggest something water related! A swim! Because, and here’s the justification, we’re all Hospice Sharks now!

Seriously? Oh yes and, furthermore, no half measures! Jill suggested that she, Judi, and Anita Gillen, a nurse, known for taking part in runs and swims from our Wellbeing Centre, needed to sign up for a swimming event she knew of, The Dee Mile, which has become a summer fixture in the fair city of Chester.

A worthwhile and challenging trial and, all to raise funds for our beloved hospice. Well, good luck team, I thought. 

However, when fundraising officer, Sarah Burgess, was also inspired to do it I had not accounted for her powers of persuasion because, on a quiet January afternoon, I let her talk me into it. Doh!

Steadily the number of mugs, sorry willing participants, grew and, with what seemed like a far-off date, Saturday the 10th August, in the diary, fourteen ladies, plus me, were signed up.

Jill, Anita, Tracey Meyers, Diane Owens, all nurses here, Sybil Leeman, a volunteer in our  Wellbeing Centre, with Sarah and myself from the hospice. Judi, now a life-long friend of the hospice ( in a new role in Manchester), Jill’s daughter Rachel, daughter in law Felicity, friend Claire (a community nurse), friend Elaine (a MacMillan nurse) alongside Anita’s friends, Jackie and mother and daughter, Trish and Abby, made up the final shark ‘pool’.

It was still January when training began and everyone chose to start in a swimming pool close to where they lived. Most had access to a twenty five metre (25m) pool and the arm swishing and leg kicking began. With a little research we established that The Dee Mile was actually The Dee 2 Kilometres! A mere trifle of EIGHTY lengths of the 25m we were tackling! (What had I done?)

Reports came back. Some were smashing 40/50 lengths breaststroke, which in effect was halfway there! Jill started off being able to comfortably do 15 lengths and was gradually building up. I was aiming to complete it doing front crawl so was slightly concerned that my peak 10 lengths (and stop for a 10 minute sauna) the first few times I went, wouldn’t cut it.

Sharks 2A couple of months went by and we began to get into a routine. The worst thing about swimming in a 25m pool is how boring it can be. Up and down, up and down, “Have I done 16 so far, or 18?” (14 probably!) Soon, we were all researching some real ‘Open Water’ swimming to prepare for the 10th August.

Some of the nurses and friends had had a swim practice in the Lake District at Windermere. They were now fully fledged ‘open water’ advocates. By mid-June most of us began getting into various lakes to get acclimatised for the challenge ahead.

Jill Littlewood was notably prolific. She often joined a number of us at Manley Mere, a freshwater lake between Helsby and Chester. However she was regularly choosing to jump into the nearest lake or any stretch of water that was close by!  Anglesey, Alderford, Windermere, Colwyn Bay, Hatchmere, her reports on FaceBook were coming through thick and fast. She’s not a shark, she’s a mermaid!

Sharks 6Along with her friend, Claire, she also tackled the Cholmondely Castle Mile at Deer Park Mere Lake and then The Snowman Swim at Llynau Mymbaur, Snowdonia. WOW! Jill was the cheerleader-in-chief and the inspiration for the rest of us (even the accomplished athletes).

For my part, and for some reason, my first open water swim at Manley Mere coincided with a freak drop in temperature in June. A (very) cool 12.8C for my first outing in open water didn’t fill me with confidence. Sarah was alongside me and, as far as I could tell, she was finding it a breeze gliding through the water easily and confidently (Ohcheers Sarah!)

At the first bend (after only 125 metres) I took in a mouthful of freshwater lake and, at first, couldn’t cough it out and catch my breath. I was spluttering a bit, I began to think, I might just give these guys £100 to get out of this?

Anyhow, after a few more sessions, in markedly warmer water as July progressed, we all started to enjoy it more. We set up a Just Giving page under ‘Wirral Hospice Sharks’ and began to let friends and family know, in earnest, that we were taking on the challenge.

Social media recorded regular updates, while the hospice supported us by sharing our adventures in Manley Mere (and Jill’s in the next stretch, any stretch, of water she happened to pass. Is she actually a mermaid?)

When the day came, Saturday 10th August, it was blowing a bit of a gale. As we all arrived at 3pm (for a 5.30pm start), the river was definitely moving in the wrong direction. If we’d been swimming against that tide we’d have finished on Monday!

Plenty of encouraging words for each other, and from our family and friends, buoyed (!) us for the challenge ahead.

The 1500m walk to the start was something I don’t think we’d factored in and, every step of the way made us realise, the finish line was getting further away.sharks 8

The good news was that the tide had turned and it was going to help us towards the finishing line. With a loud “we’ve got this Sharks” from Jill, SPLASH, we were in.

An acceptable 18C and swimming downstream, this wasn’t going to be too bad. I started off with a, fairly steady, front crawl rhythm. Anita Gillen had already started as she was with a ‘no wet suit’ group  including Elaine Charles (proper swimmers), a little earlier.

I was thinking this is OK as I swam about 200 metres and then was a bit puzzled. Why was there a crowd of people in white swimming hats gathered in the water slightly ahead?

WE HADN’T STARTED YET! Aaarrgghh – why didn’t I take it easy to here? Some minutes later, with a blast of the air horn, we set off for real.

I felt like I ‘doggy paddled’ most of the way down an inside track. I know the large ‘shoal’ of hospice sharks had decided to stay together to keep each other company and I could hear them for most of the way. They were really enjoying the swim. 

Is that Baby Shark they’re all singing? Bonkers! 

Sarah B’s easy style had her chopping through the river and she even broke into an impressive front crawl for the last few hundred metres. I was, literally, dragged out by a nice lady who was volunteering at the finish line, and very soon the Baby Shark Singers were also in, and lining up for a photo at the finish.Sharks 3

Within minutes of the finish Jill was asking the question, “So what next?” (she’s definitely a mermaid). By Monday, Sarah had mooted the idea for everyone to sign up for a night time swim, in September.

I think I’m washing my hair that evening, was my considered response!

As for The Dee Mile it had been a great journey, a great few months and a great day. Everybody felt like they’d achieved something special and, most importantly, the Just Giving donations had soared.

At the last count they were over £3,300 with more pledged offline which will all go towards the hospice’s special care and support services. Now that is, Sharktastic!

Author: Billy Howard

(If you’d like to take on a challenge for Wirral Hospice St John’s, maybe The Dee Mile in 2020, have a look at our website, http://www.wirralhospice.org/getactive and/or please get in touch with our fundraising team on 0151-343-0778 who will be delighted to help)

 

Spotlight On: Niamh McEvoy, a young volunteer in our Moreton Shop building her passport to a future career #wirralhospice #charityshops #volunteering #caring #wirral #hospicehero #lifestory

Earlier in the year we brought you a story about the great Ann Dermody who has volunteered in our charity shops for over 22 years. It served to show how Ann, alongside an army of over 120 volunteers in our six shops, helps to keep things ticking over to raise those all-important funds for the compassionate care and specialist support services of Wirral Hospice St John’s.

Niamh 1Now we’ve gone to the other end of the scale and spoken with Niamh McEvoy,  just 21 years of age, who talks about how much she enjoys volunteering at our Moreton shop and the special reasons for doing so.

When you meet Niamh you’ll be struck by how gently she speaks. She smiles the whole time and you feel like you’d be well served if you came to ask a question about the merchandise at Moreton, or when you were ready to buy an item.

Our Moreton shop is one of the biggest in our portfolio (we also have shops in Heswall. West Kirby, Liscard, New Brighton and Claughton) so there are plenty of pre-loved items to stir people’s interest. From full 3-piece suites, dining room sets, sideboards and furniture, through men’s, women’s, junior and baby clothing, bric-a-brac, books, toys and much more.

Sorting and displaying stock is a job in itself which Niamh helps with. She also meets customers and operates the till. She’s learning plenty of transferrable skills for her future.Niamh 2 (2)

Niamh tells me about her connection to Wirral Hospice St John’s. Her stepdad, John, who, alongside Niamh’s mum, Lyn, brought Niamh up from very young, attended our Wellbeing Centre in 2016 after his COPD had become particularly troublesome.

Like quite a few other patients, John was a little apprehensive at first on being referred to the hospice, but soon, given strategies for controlling his breathing and getting involved in other therapies and activities looked forward to his visits one day a week.

Niamh remembers how John would help another patient, a lady who was also losing her sight, by reading to her. The sense of community, the many laughs and still knowing he was making a significant contribution was important to him. John died in 2017 and Niamh knew straightaway that she wanted to give something back to the hospice.

Being naturally shy, Niamh would have found it a bit difficult at that time to make the first move to volunteering (not nowadays however, volunteering has really boosted  her confidence) so it was a happy coincidence that John’s nephew, Stephen (pictured here with Niamh), also volunteers at our Moreton shop and helped Niamh to settle in.

Niamh 3 (2)(Stephen’s own Dad, Ronnie, and his brother Robert had also been helped through life-limiting illnesses by Wirral Hospice St John’s and, on retirement four years ago from Cadbury’s at Moreton – the old Burton’s Biscuits – he also decided he wanted to volunteer to give back to the hospice).

In school, Niamh studied at The Kingsway Academy and gained A Levels in Chemistry, Biology, Physics which led her, naturally, to doing a foundation degree in, Drama! What? Well, she wanted to do something different to improve her confidence.

Having secured her foundation degree she is in her second year of a gateway course at the school of Biomedical Science at Liverpool John Moores University. This may lead to forensics or maybe even a future in healthcare.

She’s close to her Mum, Lyn, who works for Wirral Borough Council taking children, with autism and other social communications, to school. The ‘caring’ runs deep in Niamh’s family!

At our Moreton shop she’s a popular volunteer. She loves her volunteering colleagues Fran, Barbara and, of course, Stephen. Ricky (2)She also mentions Ricky, the shop manager (pictured here holding a hospice Summer Memories daisy), as someone she’s always learning from,

“He’s very focused, gets the job done and has been really nice and helpful to me. He leads by example and when I tell him what I’d like to do he’s always encouraging with a heartfelt, ‘Go For It, Niamh!’

niamh and jordan

Niamh and boyfriend Jordan (with Niamh here), often seen with her at other hospice events, have been going out together for a year now. They enjoy lots of things but especially nice walks and have recently started running together.

“We’re thinking of doing a charity run, with sponsorship, for the hospice in 2020.”

I think I can hear Ricky in the background, “Go for it, Niamh!”

Yes please Niamh, go for it! The hospice says a sincere Thank You for all that you do.

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Angela Hughes, a patient in our Wellbeing Centre who had a part as a child actor in 1958 Hollywood Movie, Inn of the Sixth Happiness. #wirralhospice #wellbeing #hospicehero #lifetime #nursing #care #support

Angela Hughes and LesleyAngela Hughes is, simply, a lovely lady. (Here she’s pictured with our Wellbeing  nurse, Lesley). She loves coming to the Wellbeing Centre at Wirral Hospice St John’s. The therapies and treatments are helping her live as well as possible with her COPD but, most of all, she looks forward to sitting with people, like herself, with various challenging conditions, and just chatting.

“They’re my friends and it’s great to spend time with them!”

It would be fair to say that Angela is small in height but she more than makes up for it in personality. She’s got a really interesting life story and I sat down with her to hear a bit more about it.

She was born, Angela Woo, in St George’s Place in Liverpool, at the heart of the oldest Chinese community in Europe, known locally as Chinatown, to a Chinese father, who died when Angela was two and an English mother, Alice.

Angela Hughes 6She says that the title ‘child actor’ overstates her role in the Twentieth Century Fox film, made in 1958, Inn of the Sixth Happiness. The film attempts to highlight the real life bravery of legendary Chinese missionary, Gladys Aylward, (the film is not completely accurate according to Gladys herself), who is played in the film by famous Hollywood actress, Ingrid Bergman.

The film depicts a period in the Second World War when Gladys led a group of Chinese children, orphaned in the Sino-Japanese war, to safety over the mountains of China. It was actually shot in the mountains of North Wales and 100 Chinese children from Liverpool played the orphans.

Angela says, “There was an advert in The Liverpool Echo and mum put me forward. The rest, as they say, is history.”

It certainly is. It’s also the reason that many people who were children in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s remember the song, This Old Man, so fondly. “♫This Old Man, he played one, he played knick knack on my thumb… ♫”

Happy Days indeed!

So, following her Hollywood ‘debut’ young Angela was enrolled in Margaret Cox’s dancing school in Parliament Street in Liverpool. She showed plenty of promise and was soon off to the Pavilion Theatre in Rhyl for a regular acrobatic ladder act and more dancing.Angela Hughes 1

“I was extremely flexible as a teenager and I was soon recruited to the Circus.”

Via Billy Smart’s and Bingley Hall in Manchester, Angela moved on to the famous Dick Chipperfield’s Circus.

In those days tamed animals were part of the attraction and Angela would ride horses, elephants, camels, and rhinos as part of bringing in the crowds all around the UK.

Angela Hughes 3“I also performed acrobatics and a ballerina act. We’d have fun being chased by, and chasing, the clowns around the Circus ring. The famous ‘bucket of water into the crowd, which turns out to be confetti’ was one of my jobs and it did get a lot of laughs”.

Angela’s first marriage produced “five wonderful children” who she clearly adores. “They’re always there for me and, of course, the 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren keep me very busy.”

Her second marriage to the love of her life, Tommy Hughes, was a happy one. Tommy has his own place in music history as one of the original members of Merseybeat favourites, The Swinging Blue Jeans. Sadly, Tommy died in 2013. 

Originally The Bluegenes were a skiffle group formed in 1956 and Tommy played the banjo. However National Service cut short Tommy’s growing career and he missed out on their later considerable success in the 1960’s. Have a listen to Tommy talking about his career here https://www.vincetracy.com/podcastfile/tommyhughesswingingbluejeans8october.wav

Tommy and Angela used to sing ‘live’ together in his later years which underlines Angela’s own wide-ranging talents.

It’s emotional for Angela so I move on to ask about Wirral Hospice St John’s and her experience here.

“People are so lovely, caring, understanding. No one judges you they’re just as helpful as can be. I love meeting the people who are in a similar position to my own. There’s a lot of sharing. We’re like our own little community. They’re all very special people.”

Angela gets breathing exercises and strategies to cope with breathlessness. She has strong, heartfelt advice for young people,

“Don’t Smoke, it’s that simple. There are enough people now, who started in the time before we knew its real effects, who are living with the consequences.”

Wise Words from a wise lady! I ask her how she views her own situation and, in a throwback to her Liverpool roots, she says (maybe using a different word).

Stuff happens! I’m just glad that I have my family and the people here at Wirral Hospice St John’s to help me to cope.”

We love having you around Angela, thank you for sharing so much about your fascinating life!Angela Hughes 2

Author: Billy Howard

 

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