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)

 

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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

 

Spotlight on Leanne Jones and Kristy Maughan: Knocking it out of the park for It’s a Knockout, 2019 #fun #hospiceheroes #fundraising #familysupport #caring #support #thankyou

Leanne and Kristy 6        Leanne and Kristy 4

BOOOOOOMMMMM!

Leanne Jones (l) and Kristy Maughan (r) have arrived at Wirral Hospice St John’s to tell me how motivated they are for the annual It’s a Knockout event at New Brighton Dips on Sunday 21st July.

They’ve arrived with a friend and colleague Don Hazlehurst, from the DWP offices in Birkenhead, and they’re eager to tell me how much they’re looking forward to embarking on the fun-filled obstacle course to raise money for the hospice and, also quite important to them, very important, REALLY important, they’re going all out to WIN!

There’s a competitive streak alright as they recount their victory of a couple of years ago, only to be judged as 3rd in last year’s reprisal. Ooohh, it hurts, I can tell you, and they’re determined to make up for it this year.Leanne and Kristy 8

It’s all in good fun. Well, they really (no, really) do want to win, but they also know that, most importantly, the funds they raise go to Wirral Hospice St John’s, which they so clearly adore.

I start by asking Leanne why the hospice means so much to her. She’s had an affinity with us for over ten years now. Her Dad, Gary, was only 46 when he passed away here with oesophageal cancer here in 2009. He’d been at the hospice in two periods for help with pain management and with his breathing.

“The hospice couldn’t have done more for us. The care was absolutely excellent and all of the staff and volunteers were so nice to me, my sister, Louise, brother, Michael and my mum, Sue. After Dad passed my Mum found the bereavement counselling so beneficial and it really helped with our loss and explaining it to the younger children and grandchildren.”

Leanne and Kristy 2Don, who is here to support Leanne and Kristy, actually got to meet Leanne’s dad through working with Leanne and became good friends with him. He was keen to support Leanne and the team and was in the team that finished third last year, (come on, it’s a bronze medal!) 

Kristy – don’t dare spell it Kirsty! – is on another plain of competitiveness again! She’s so worried about the will to win in her family that she is humming and hawing about allowing her 8 year old son, Theo, to enter the junior It’s a Knockout on the day.

“He’s worse than me, he’ll just take over. He’ll be ordering the other kids about. It may be next year for him.”

Kristy’s Dad, Les, was also treated at Wirral Hospice St John’s. Les was a big man, six feet two and had been a landscape gardener. Bowel cancer was his condition and, like so many families, they chose to focus positively on living as well as possible for his whole life.

Les was known as Goggog to Theo, (who hadn’t quite got his pronunciation around ‘grandad’ as a baby) and his big sister, Tia. He died at age 55 and left a massive gap for the whole family Kristy, her brothers Tim and Craig, her Mum Lorraine and Les’s Mum, Kristy’s nan, Flo.

“I remember people at the hospice, including families who were also with their loved ones, forming a mini-community. The staff and volunteers were really lovely. Mum and I had bereavement counselling which I know helped Mum and helped me personally, giving me strategies to explain Dad’s passing to my children.”

Leanne and Kristy support the hospice in many ways throughout the year. They support our Summer Memories campaign by buying a commemorative flower every year and also Light Up a Life around Christmas time.

Right now, I think we’re beginning to understand,  they’re looking forward, in a big way, to It’s a knockout!

The DWP staff see it as a team bonding exercise for those who take part and all their colleagues who sponsor them and come down on the day to support them.

Leanne and Kristy 7Don, unfortunately, can’t be in this year’s event and as the team were called Don’s Warrior Princesses (D.W.P. I like what you did there) last year, they might be competing under a new name!

It’s a great, fun, day with plenty for the whole family. Ice Cream, fast food, tombola, face painting, fair rides, stalls and the kids favourite, junior assault course. The spectacle of the teams as they play off in It’s a Knockout is great fun in itself and the upbeat music keeps the whole thing moving.

So, we’ll see you all there on Sunday 21st July and, whatever you do, don’t get in Leanne’s or Kristy’s way!

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight on Donna Ellis – our green-fingered patient, integral to the Wirral Hospice St John’s garden make-over team #hospicehero #patientcare #hospice #wellbeing #gardening #supporter

Donna 4

     The Hospice Garden (adopted)

“How many kinds of sweet flowers grow,

In our Wirral Hospice garden?

(We’ll tell you below of some that we know,

Those we miss you’ll surely pardon).

Daffodil’s, Heart’s Ease and Phlox,

Meadowsweet and Lady Smocks,

Gentian, lupine and tall hollyhocks,

Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, blue forget-me-nots,

In our Wirral Hospice Garden.

This might be Wirral Hospice St John’s summer anthem for 2019 as we’ve completed the garden makeover in time for our Open Garden event this weekend 29th and 30th June, 2019. (Many thanks to Jimmie F Rodgers, the American folk singer, who penned (most of) those evocative words. It’s set to a traditional English tune which is said to have been arranged in the sixteenth century).

We also thought that the timing was perfect to share somebody’s story who knows about gardens and gardening. Someone who has helped in the planning and preparation, someone who is a patient (nay, “a person”) who has attended our Wellbeing Centre and has become a friend, and has also given her own time, at the hospice.

Donna Ellis is that person.

Whenever I see her she’s ready with a broad smile and a friendly greeting. She has an engaging laugh and a twinkle in her eye despite, it is fair to say, having to cope for several years with the really complex health conditions that life has thrown at her.

When she first came to us in the Wellbeing Centre it took a couple of visits to establish that her passion in life was in bringing life to plants and flowers. Our job is to help people to optimise their lives and, where possible, to continue to be involved in, and carry on doing, the things they enjoy.

Soon she’d agreed with Helen Parkinson, our clinical services manager for Wellbeing, that she should cultivate a little bed of flowers near to the entrance to Outpatients. This has been accomplished with aplomb and the results are there, for all to see.

So, ever since we decided to prepare for an Open Garden we’ve consulted with Donna, as well as other patients and volunteers, to bring it to fruition.

She’s been getting stuck in on extra days, with husband Alan providing the muscle (and who also has an eye for gardening) to move shrubs while Donna applies some finesse to new planting.

Donna 3I sat with Donna the week before our Open Garden event to find out a little bit more about her, while she was also attending to a large pot of flowers, being lovingly nurturing for our display.

Born and Bred in Wirral, Donna was brought up in New Ferry. She’s the youngest, by 10 years, of 4 children. Maybe this is why, it becomes clear, she felt so close to her mum, Mary, and feels her loss very keenly. She also loves her dad, Ken, who still lives in her childhood home and who, with Mary, taught her to love gardens, planting and gardening.

Dad built his own timber frame greenhouse for seasonal veg. They never ran out and they’d share the produce, sprouts, tomatoes, cucumber and cauliflower with their neighbours. Donna remembers that one side of the garden was lawn and the other would be for growing plants and flowers to coincide with the seasons.

Donna would sit for hours watching, learning and eventually joining in. What is now clear is that she inherited her Mum and Dad’s green-fingers.

She’s telling me all this while attentively ‘dead-heading’, removing brown leaves and planting new flowers in a huge pot,

Donna Pots“This is skimmia, lovely red flowers in the winter. I’m gonna build up this antirrhinum and plant the rest of the bed around it. It will give it some height. Ooh, a bit of vine weevil here to remove. Can you pass the dianthus and those lupins?”

I’m thinking: I don’t know what it all means, but it looks brilliant!

At school, St John Plessington in Bebington, she gained 10 GCSE’s and 4 ‘A’ Levels. She loved theatre studies and wrote and starred in a play, Outside the Bathroom Door, ultimately attaining a Grade 8 qualification for acting, awarded by the Royal College of Music.

At 18, Donna was at a real crossroads. Whether to study for a degree in divinity or to pursue her other calling, nursing? Nursing won and, after 3 years training at Arrowe Park and Clatterbridge hospitals, she qualified as a Registered General Nurse (RGN) at 21 years of age.

Donna and AlanWhile training she was working at the Gateway Supermarket in Bebington where she met Alan (pictured here, on one of our garden makeover days, with Donna),

“Alan was shy when he was younger and I was quite ‘gobby’. But I thought he was the bees knees, he had a Nissan Sunny which I thought was luxury. We laugh now when we look back – it was really an ‘ol’ banger!”

I’m laughing because it’s the way she tells it!

The first time Alan said he had ‘something important to ask’, Donna‘s eye’s roll as she recalls it was to ask her to move in together! Not the proposal she was expecting, but it was only a matter of time before they were married.

In her late 20’s and early 30’s Donna’s struggles with illness really began to take over her life. A very difficult pregnancy which, happily, did bring their daughter, Jess, into the world had been fraught with complications on top of Donna’s developing ill health.

Donna describes the moment when Jess came into the world,

“Throughout pregnancy I carried a condition which brought cruel pain. I had truly believed there was little hope for the life growing inside me. So it was a miracle when, there she was, a beautiful baby girl, 8lb 3oz, with a mass of black hair and long legs. I was the happiest person alive.”

Like it has to, life carried on, and Donna was beginning to live with ever-more complex conditions. She has a diagnosis of eosinophilic (brittle) asthma. This is a life-limiting condition in itself, however, a treatment, especially formulated for the asthma, brings her some blessed relief.

But, in the last 4 years, Donna has also had to combat blood clots, infections and sleep apnoea. Perhaps most challenging of all she developed MRSA sepsis which needed a high dosage of three antibiotics. A reaction damaged her middle ear, which has resulted in permanent vertigo, and she has become reliant on her mobility ‘walker’. She does add, (surprisingly cheerfully in her circumstance), “It’s three wheels. One for each member of our little family.”

Brittle asthma can lead to a referral for hospice care. Donna admits that before coming to Wirral Hospice St John’s she was at her very lowest ebb. She’d been an accomplished RGN in a career she loved and now she felt like all she was, was a hindrance.

Her initial reaction to being referred to the hospice was, like many people, a little trepidation. Best to use Donna’s own words here after she had asked herself at the time, “Am I dying?”

The answer is NO! I started to realise I still had a lot to offer. I needed to deal with my illnesses and look forward. The hospice provides me with pain relief but so much more. No-one says, ‘there is nothing more we can do for you’.

I feel like a special person getting individual attention. I feel privileged actually, as not everyone takes up the experience. It’s a place where I can be myself, just ‘me’. My family know that I relish going into the hospice. They look forward to the stories I share when I go home. I have remembered who I am, having spent time with the hospice’s attentive and skilled staff, dedicated volunteers, and, in fact, fellow patients with their own challenges. Laughter is a big part of life at the hospice.

I feel like I’m a Mum and Wife again. I just hope my experience will inspire other people to embrace the hospice should they be referred. It has made such a positive impact on my life.”

Donna Xmas

Wow!

Donna now has a further complication, an Aortic Dissection. Her blood pressure has to be constantly monitored and she has to engage in calming activities to maintain a steady rate.

So, it’s a good job that gardening provides just such a past time. She’s become a fixture during our Garden Makeover volunteering days and we all love to see her. Her impact is immeasurable and without doubt the garden would not have been quite as beautiful as it has turned out to be, without her, and Alan’s, help, in time for our Open Garden weekend. 

You can imagine that we had to be especially gentle when we also told Donna the barnstorming news that that she would be being interviewed for BBC TV’s North West Tonight! We recently received the news that, to our great privilege, Wirral Hospice St John’s has secured the right to site the North West Tonight Sunshine Garden, in memory of weather presenter, Dianne Oxberry, here, following its showcase at The RHS Tatton Flower Show in July.

AND, She Smashed it! Of Course. See the video here.

Thank You Donna from, deeper than, the bottom of our hearts.

Author: Billy Howard

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