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

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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

He’s a Knockout! Spotlight on Mark James, a hospice hero, who often leaps over foam-sprayed inflatable obstacles to raise funds for Wirral Hospice St John’s #hospicehero #supporters #itsaknockout #patientcare #support #fun #fundraising

Get ready for Sunday 21st July at New Brighton Dips where Wirral Hospice St John’s will be holding our 4th Annual ‘It’s a Knockout’ extravaganza.

Mark James 5Teams of 6-10 people will compete with each other over a range of inflatable obstacles, sometimes dry but more often sprayed with foamy bubbles, which sees the participants slip-sliding all over the place as they try to win points for their team. (On the left of this picture is Mark James, in action at last year’s event. More about him to follow).

It’s a fantastic, fun filled, frenzy of foam-filled fabulousness, in the image of the famous TV show, It’s a Knockout, which ran from the 1960’s through to the ‘80’s. It’s massive fun for everyone involved and, for all those watching too.

Fun is exactly the right word, because the competitors and their supporting friends, family and, in fact, hundreds of people from the whole Wirral come back year after year to join in, and roll around with laughter from the sidelines at, all the pandemonium. This mayhem is complemented by pulsating upbeat music which is enough to get everyone moving as the chaos unfolds.

The competition is the central attraction of the day, but everyone can take part in the fun day which surrounds the event. There’s loads for the family to do, fairground rides, food stalls, ice-cream, face painting and the kids’ favourite, an inflatable assault course.

So, it’s a brilliant day for everyone and a really important fundraising event for Wirral Hospice St John’s. Many people recognise this and are delighted to sponsor their friends and family to take part. Many of the participants inspire others to get involved because it is their way of making their contribution and saying a personal ‘thank you’ to the hospice.

Mark James & coOne such person is Mark James (the furthest man on the left, in blue trainers, as you look at this picture). His Mum, Maureen (known fondly as ‘Mo’), was receiving our specialist care and support when she passed away at the hospice in 2010 and he’s been raising funds for us every year since.

Mark recalls the hospice team caring so attentively for his Mum, taking away any stress and pain that her illness had brought on. He heaps praise on the doctors and nurses whom he describes as, “simply brilliant. Wirral Hospice St John’s made that time in our families lives as nice as it possibly could be. We’ll be eternally grateful.”

Mark is a marketing manager for a software company in his day job. He’s also, it’s fair to say, driven by keeping himself fit and encouraging others, through his fitness business, Better Body Fitness (BBF), to also look after themselves. He’s also encouraged 3 teams, of 10 people each, to contend in the 2019, It’s a Knockout. One of which he’ll lead himself!

BBF brings together people of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability on three evenings a week to take part in fun exercises and circuit training, to get their hearts pumping. I joined him on one such evening at The Grosvenor Assembly Rooms in Wallasey,  to get a flavour of their challenges and, importantly to say Thank You to the groups for their support for the hospice (extended also to others who would have been around on different evenings).

It really is a mix of people ranging from people who are fitness fanatics to people who just want to be active, enjoy themselves and lose a few pounds. Everybody does the same exercises together, but at a pace, repetition and level which suits their current capabilities. They have a gentle motivator in Mark, although he can transmit a ‘bootcamp’ vibe for those who need a stronger challenge! 

Mark James 2

They’re a happy group. Lots of laughs are had during the 45 minute session. First, there’s a nice, easy, warm-up of stretches and light walking or jogging to get the circulation going and then the volume on the background music is turned up. It’s Pump up the Jam, and OFF WE GO.

Squat thrusts, star jumps, sit ups, press ups, running, jogging and walking, I can see that the gents and ladies from this group are going to be able to strive for a win in It’s a Knockout. (But there’s no foam or obstacles in the Gym so that might well level the playing field on the day!)

At the end of the session there’s a nice warm-down and the members are all aglow. I can tell they’re already looking forward to their next workout.

After the session I ask Mark about some of his other fundraising for the hospice. I know that through various events since 2010, including It’s a Knockout, he has already raised over £6,000 for the hospice. Various feats of endurance and iron man events have contributed to this, but perhaps the one he considers the toughest is The Rat Race (Mark pictured here at the end of the small matter of a 200 daunting obstacles over a 20 mile course!)

Mark James (2)

I asked Mark one final question, how, with a busy day job, his fitness business and a young family (Dylan, 7, and Mollie, 4), how does he pile it all in?

“I’ve got a very, very patient wife, Gemma, she’s a nurse.” Ha, now it becomes clear!

Gemma actually returned to nursing in 2018 after maternity leave and actually spent time here at Wirral Hospice St John’s in her ‘refresher’ phase. She has seen life as a family member and now, from the inside, as a returning nurse. She was really inspired by the care and support delivered at the hospice which, she told Mark, had added greatly to her all around experience.

Mark’s favourite quote and the maxim by which he lives, and which he also used as the sign-off of a speech he made earlier this year at a 400 person conference called ‘Ignite your Inner Potential’,  is from Will Smith:

“If you’re not making someone else’s life better then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better by making other lives better.”

What more can we say? Just, THANK YOU very, very much to Mark, and Gemma, all their family and friends, and, of course, all the members from BBF. We’re looking forward to you knocking us all out in It’s a Knockout, 2019!

Author: Billy Howard

(It’s a knockout is on Sunday 21st July at New Brighton Dips. If you’d like to enter a team of 6-10 people at £10 per person call Teresa, Jamie-Leigh or Sarah on 0151 343 0778. We also ask individual teams if they can also raise a minimum of £750 between them, through sponsorship, we would be extremely grateful).

Mark James 6

Tribute to Mr Richard Goss, remembering a thoroughly charming man. #wirralhospice #wellbeing #wirral #hospicehero #family #counselling #physiotherapy #art #gardening #therapy #aromatherapy #musictherapy

Richard Goss (3)Mr Richard Goss had a calm, thoughtful aura about him. When you first met him he’d greet you with a polite, “How do you do”. It’s a great way of opening up a conversation and, let me tell you, Richard was an interesting man to spend time with.

I first met him at Wirral Hospice St John’s Wellbeing Centre where he joined us having undergone successful surgery on a brain tumour in January 2018. The tumour was one of the secondary conditions of Richard’s diagnosed lung cancer.

He was candid about his first reaction to being referred to us – like many patients he was a little anxious and was going to refuse. After a heart-to-heart with his wife, Angela, they decided that there would be no harm in Richard attending an initial session, “let’s see how it goes”.

They were really happy that they did. After attending for one day a week, for 8 weeks, Angela says “Wirral Hospice St John’s gave Richard back his zest for life.”

Patients referred to the Wellbeing Centre, are given information, advice and guidance for living well in their everyday lives. Following an initial chat with our trained staff, and according to their needs, patients may enter into aromatherapy, physiotherapy or occupational therapy as well as wellbeing sessions such as medicine management or dealing with fatigue.

We facilitate a wide range of group activities including arts, crafts, gardening and, (particularly liked around the wider hospice) baking. Sometimes, people will choose just to have a quiet chat with fellow patients, staff or our fantastic volunteers. They may want to sit in their own space for a while listening to a favourite piece of music.

I first joined Richard, one day in the Wellbeing Centre, while he was taking part in an art session with our creative therapies co-ordinator, Penny Lee, to hear his ideas for helping Wirral Hospice St John’s and to find out some more about his life.

Richard was involved in the Film, TV and entertainment business for over 40 years. During his time with us he was working on a ‘film’ storyboard with the intention of aiding future patients to feel comfortable when they are referred here. It’s a fantastic idea and one we’re looking to bring to fruition later this year.

I wanted to know more about Richard’s life and we talked at length.

By the early 1970’s he was a corporate lawyer working with the famous human rights lawyer Sir John Foster  in London. Sir John sent him on assignment to work on some of the contractual elements of a film being produced by legendary Hollywood film director, George Cukor (of 1964’s My Fair Lady fame), and Richard never looked back.

The film, Love among the Ruins, starred the movie legends, Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier. From thereafter Richard began to develop his creative instincts and deal with people who, in showbiz circles, are referred to as ‘the talent.’ His membership of the Royal Academy of Music where he’d been a chorister (Richard pictured here in his early teens) had maybe triggered his desire to work in the creative industries.Richard Goss 2 (3)

He began to manage some promising acts and in 1975 he worked on a spoof song about the American ‘cop’ shows that were big at the time (our older readers will remember Kojak, McCloud, Ironside, Columbo, Cannon and Hawaii Five-O). The song was called ‘King of the Cops’ sung by a British TV impressionist called Billy Howard.

King of the Cops reached number 6 in the UK singles pop charts on 18th January 1976. (It was just the small matter of Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody, and Abba with Mamma Mia fending off other talented artists at the time!

Richard’s wife, Angela, definitely has the X Factor. She was working with the Brian Rogers Connection dance group – famous as the regular troupe on Ted Rogers’ 3-2-1 – when she met Richard on the set of Summertime Special in the 1980’s.

Richard particularly liked it that Angela had been able to spend some time to herself while he was attending the Wellbeing Centre. After his eight week referral he and Angela spent time at our Evergreen Group meetings. A group for patients and their partners (or other carers) to share stories and experiences.

Richard gave a presentation to the group about his and Angela’s visit, in 2014, to Guangxi in China. It was a captivating insight into a part of the world, with it’s major conurbation, Liuzhou, being developed into a ground-breaking Forest City.

All of our staff and volunteers, alongside our other patients and their families, loved hearing Richard’s many life stories.

A thoroughly charming man. Rest in Peace, Richard.

On Wednesday evening of 24th April a Variety Night at Poulton Vics Social Club in Wallasey has been put together in tribute to Richard. Former World boxing champion, John H Stracey, enjoying a second career as a sensational crooner, is headlining a full show with other local artists. 

It’s £12.50 pp – with buffet included – and starts at 7.30pm all proceeds will go to support Wirral Hospice St John’s in providing our specialist clinical and nursing care and other patient and family support services.

April is Make A Will Month – do you have an up-to-date Will?

julia evans poster 2019 date removed“Hello, I’m Julia Evans, one of Wirral Hospice St John’s Fundraising Managers. I have worked at the Hospice for 17 years and look after our supporters who wish to make donations to our charity. It’s such a special place and a real privilege to be part of somewhere that plays such a crucial caring role in our local community.”

Making a legally valid Will is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your loved ones are provided for when you are no longer around to look out for them.

Many people do not want to consider making a Will yet or think that they will get to it another time.

It can usually cost in the region of £150+ for a single Will and £250+ for a double Will. More complex estates, for example those involving several properties, savings accounts or business assets can take much longer to work on and can be more expensive.

Wills are legally-binding documents and although you can make Wills online cheaply and even for free, it is advisable to get professional support because even small errors could cause big problems for the future.

Wirral Hospice St John’s has formed partnerships with a number of local solicitors who are all willing to draw up Wills at their own expense throughout April. Click here to see a list of this year’s participants.

In exchange for their time, each solicitor  requests that individuals make a fair donation to the Hospice in return for this service, which is a suggested minimum donation of £80 for a single Will and £150 for a double Will. Every donation helps us to continue providing our services, free of charge to local patients and their loved ones.

Appointments need to be booked in advance with each of the participating solicitors. Slots will fill up very quickly; early booking is advised so as not to be disappointed!

In this country, if your wishes are not drawn up officially then legally your assets are at the mercy of the government, which could leave behind big problems for your loved ones that could take many years to sort out.

If you are a homeowner and have children it is even more important to have a Will in place. The law does not recognise unmarried couples either so if one of you dies suddenly without a Will, your partner could be left without anything.

Of course, you may already have a Will in place but if major changes have happened in your life, such as marriage, having children, divorce, death of a loved one, then it can make aspects or all of a current Will invalid.

Wirral Hospice St John’s provides specialist care and support to patients, their carers and families across Wirral. The Hospice’s care is free to our patients but costs more than £3.5million a year to run.

Legacies are a vital part of our fundraising and ensure that we can continue to be here to provide the best care for our patients and their loved ones at their time of most need.

It really varies what people have left us in their Wills and we are always so grateful for whatever people choose to donate to us however small they might think that gift is.

Please note that if you use one of the legal firms supporting our Make A Will Month there is absolutely no obligation at all to leave a gift in your Will to the Hospice in addition to making a donation towards the cost of the Will-writing service.

If you choose to do so though, it is at your discretion and the solicitor is not allowed to inform the Hospice or any other charity you might wish to support after your lifetime.

Please do not delay something as important as this; pick up the phone, make that appointment and know that you will be making a donation to your local Hospice in doing so.

To find out more information, please get in touch with Julia: 0151 343 0778 / juliae@wirralhospice.org or visit www.wirralhospice.org

Author: Julia Evans

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