‘Christmas Lights’. Friendly rivalry in Templemore Road inspires our Wirral Christmas Lights Trail

#Christmas #fun #fundraising #hospicecare #community

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, so the lyrics of the famous yuletide song go and, in this year of all years, we can all do with some seasonal cheer.

Ian, up the ladder, with son, Jordan, fitting their Christmas lights

So, we were delighted at Wirral Hospice St John’s when neighbours at Templemore Road in Oxton decided to add support to our Wirral Christmas Lights Trail, while showcasing the extra special effort they’ve been putting into decorating the outside of their homes for a number of years now.

We spoke to Ian and Nina from Templemore about the road’s annual lights fest and their, in effect, open-air Grottoes which have been attracting sightseers from all over Wirral this year.

“As a family, Christmas has always been a pretty big deal for us and we’ve always gone a bit OTT with the Christmas lights.

Our friends of over 30 years, Dave and Alison, who live a couple of doors away, and our, now grown up, children really look forward to the Christmas ‘lights-off’. (Well, ‘lights-on’ actually!) 

Ian and Dave are especially competitive so it has become a bit of a thing about who can outshine the other. They’re like big kids at this time of year but we know it’s just a bit of fun at the end of the day. Over the years many other neighbours have also shown their support and are becoming more and more involved.

As Ian is an engineer by trade, he thoroughly enjoys designing and making his own creations. Dave, in turn, acquires every Christmas inflatable he can find, including massive Santa’s, polar bears, penguins, reindeer, bells, Christmas trees,  snow scenes and thousands of twinkling lights!

Another ‘Big Kid’ checks out the Christmas lights

Stuck between the competing families are neighbours, Will and family, who have been caught in the crossfire and now just think, ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’.

So now, and for the past seven years since we moved into Templemore, the number of neighbours joining in has steadily grown.

During this year’s lockdowns, the road formed a supportive and friendly WhatsApp group and the ‘chat’ since summertime was about going all out for Christmas to bring a bit of cheer to the whole neighbourhood after this challenging year.

Then, in November we spotted that Wirral Hospice St Johns were promoting a Wirral Christmas Lights Trail and the whole group agreed that many people in the area have personally experienced the care and support of our hospice and that it was the ideal charity for us all to get behind. 

Now, with the story having been picked up by the Wirral Globe and with social media support from the hospice, and many others, we have hordes of families, every single evening walking up and down the road.

Cars form queues at busy times. But everyone keeps a social-distance and it is wonderful for us to see so many happy, smiling faces. (Although sincere apologies to those having to pack their toddlers back into the car, crying because they want to stay longer!)

It has really lifted the spirits. The roads adjoining ours are also getting in on the act and we know many more around Wirral are too, which is so heartwarming to see. With people also making their kind donations to Wirral Hospice St Johns it makes it all the more worthwhile.”

Lovely sentiments from Nina and Ian, all their friends and neighbours, and now, of course, all the other people who are joining in these festive celebrations.

At the hospice we are truly grateful to everyone in our whole Wirral ‘family’ as we say to them, sincerely,

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good ‘light’!

NB: In a year when many events have been cancelled it’s heartening to know our Wirral community are finding many innovative ways to help their local hospice.

With the impetus from our friends at Templemore Road the Wirral Christmas Lights Trail has really taken off with over 50 different households all around Wirral now taking part in the festive celebration.

You can find out more about the trail here www.wirralhospice.org/lightstrail And, if you can, please make your kind donations to the campaign here www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wirralchristmaslights

You are not alone: Jennifer Pickavance remembers her mum, Michaela, and the kind and compassionate care she came to know at Wirral Hospice St John’s #care #hospicehero #wirralhospice #support #hospicecare #caring #thankyou #lightupalife

Emma, Michaela and Jen

In what has been a challenging time for all of us, Jennifer Pickavance, ‘Jen’, and her sister, Emma, and their wider family, have been through much more than many.

Jen and Emma’s mum, Michaela had been living with a primary diagnosis of lung cancer, complicated by tumours in her brain and vertebrae, since September 2017. Jen assures us that her Mum lived her life as well as she possibly could in these last few years, holidaying and socialising with friends whenever possible, before she sadly passed away at Wirral Hospice St John’s in April.

The hospice’s Jamie-Leigh and I met with Jen as she has volunteered to speak on a pre-recorded film we’re producing for our annual Light up a Life commemorations*, and she told us all about Michaela, her lovely Mum.

She was my best friend, we spent every minute we could together and I couldn’t have asked for a better mum. I find it hard put into words how much she meant, and still means, to me and how much I love her.  

After mum recovered from anxiety and panic attacks herself, she wanted to pursue a career in mental health to help others. She was in her 40’s when she attended Chester University to study Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). We were all so proud when she attained her Diploma in CBT and when, soon after which, she became a high intensity CBT therapist at Inclusion Matters, Wirral.

Emma and Jen hug Mum, Michaela, at her graduation

When her illness was first diagnosed it appeared that her prognosis wasn’t great, but Dr Carlo (Palmieri, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre) was amazing and found she had a rare type of lung cancer which meant her initial treatment would not have to be as intense as it sometimes can.

For two years, she was doing really well. She was as fit and healthy as she could be and, for the most part, got to enjoy the things she loved doing, nice holidays and being with family, she was close with her sisters Trisha, Donna and Lizzie (she was the second oldest) and had a wide circle of lovely friends.

By late 2019 however, the illness was catching up and she underwent radiotherapy and an intensive course of combined chemotherapy and immunotherapy. By January she’d experienced a seizure and was admitted to Wirral Hospice’s inpatients ward.

She had already been an outpatient at the hospice for over a year under Dr Helen (Emms, a consultant at the hospice), whom she loved, and Mum had also been a patient in the hospice’s Wellbeing Centre where she took part in arts and crafts and aromatherapy sessions which she really enjoyed.

She was able to access counselling too which I think helped her a lot. The hospice was a whole new experience for her. I knew she felt safe and at ease in the calm and caring atmosphere of the hospice.

The hospice team really helped her manage her anxiety and went above and beyond for her.

Her 53rd birthday fell on the 8th March and the hospice helped us arrange a party in their family room which meant a great deal to us all. It’s a lovely memory we will cherish forever. She liked everyone she met at the hospice and had a special regard for the hospice’s Tracy, and many others, who showed her so much care and compassion and always managed to cheer her up.

I know my mum would have loved to be at home towards the end of her life but it wasn’t possible and the hospice was actually the perfect place for her as they cared for her in ways I don’t think we could have.

I can’t thank the hospice staff enough for what they did for our family, one of the nurses, Sandy, held my mum’s hand in the moment she passed away. That’s not a job just anybody could do, I will always appreciate that and hold it in my heart forever. 

I am so beyond grateful for everything the hospice did for us, and does for others. I have never experienced the loss of a loved one before. The hospice made our heartbreaking experience that little more bearable.

The continued support they’ve given me is so appreciated, I am forever grateful”. 

It was a devastating time in itself for Jen, Emma and the family, Michaela was only 53, but their pain was further compounded when, in the same week, their Nan, Pat, and Grandad, George, Michaela’s parents, passed away after succumbing to COVID 19.

It’s been, simply, heartbreaking!

At only 23 years of age Jen has coped with so much this year. She has a great supportive network of aunties, uncles, cousins, her Dad and his family and lots of close friends. She talks all the time to her sister, Emma, who lives in London with her boyfriend, and who makes regular trips home to Wirral for ‘quality sister time‘ whenever they can.

Jen also looks after and takes great comfort from their dog, Candy, a cute Bichon Frise.

Jamie-Leigh and I came away from meeting Jen in complete admiration. She’s been, understandably, tearful at times, but so brave and so eloquent.

She’s a real credit to her whole family and, of course, Michaela, her lovely mum!

Michaela

NB: *(Due to the COVID-19 restrictions and to keep everyone safe, the hospice has made the difficult decision to cancel the annual outdoor Light up a Life switch-on service for this year.

The hospice is instead endeavouring to reach out to even more families across Wirral with a pre-recorded film of the lights switch on service. This will be available to view from the comfort of people’s own homes, via the hospice’s website, from 6pm on Sunday 6th December.

The short film will capture the spirit of the lights switch-on, interspersed with carols from a socially-distanced hospice choir featuring locally renowned singer, Sarah Mullis. It will also contain the recollections of people, like Jen, whose families have experienced the hospice’s dedicated care as well as heartfelt thoughts and readings from the hospice team, including some wonderful volunteers.

More details can be found at www.wirralhospice.org/light-up-a-life

Spotlight on Chris Seddon and Katy Lehman, our friends at Nook Mortgages. Supporting Wirral Hospice St John’s as part of a heartfelt Thank You to our Hospice at Home service #hospiceheroes #wirralhospice #hospicecare #caring #wellbeing #hospiceathome #fundraising #thankyou

You don’t need to know someone for a really long time to hold them in high regard.

This is what I felt when I met Chris Seddon and Katy Lehman of Nook Mortgages, alongside Wirral Hospice’s Senior Fundraising Officer, Jamie-Leigh Burgess, for the first time, recently.

It is also what comes over loud and clear when Chris describes the care given to his Dad, Colin, by Wirral Hospice St John’s Hospice at Home service in 2017.

Colin and Chris’s mum, Sue, had welcomed their first grandchildren, Pippa and Summer, into their lives by then (Summer was born in September 2016). So alongside Sue, Chris, his wife, Jo, his younger brother Paul and his wife , Beth, and youngest brother Phil and his partner, Emma, Colin had his family close by in the final months of his life.

Colin lived with the knowledge of his oesophageal cancer for only four months, from September 2016, and spent time having treatment in hospital from that November.

As the illness progressed Colin was taken home in January 2017 and Hospice at Home’s Health Care Assistant, Helen Marsh, became involved in his care alongside the Marie Curie nurses (who are also often referred and partnered by the hospice to bring their specialist care into people’s lives).

It was, sadly,  to be the final week of Colin’s life and Helen’s natural compassion, while listening intently, had enabled him to open up about what he wanted and his wishes after his passing, although he never spoke with the family about not being around with, and for, them all.

Chris remembers how important the Hospice at Home service was for his Dad and the respite it gave his Mum, him personally, and the whole family.

“As well as caring for dad we were asked how we were feeling too. It was a great help.”

Chris describes his dad as his hero and he remembers Colin had been so brave and considerate with his illness, to the point that he wanted everyone else to be looked after.

When Chris describes the care his dad received you can tell it had a profound effect on him. He resolved to do what he could to help the hospice raise funds and this has been accomplished in a number of ways.

As well as completing walks for sponsorship there is now an annual memorial golf day at Caldy Golf Club where Colin, Chris and his brothers played together happily as members there for many years. There’s also a definite legacy now, as Chris is only too happy to tell me he recently won a prestigious trophy, The Jubilee Trophy, so his name will be on the club winner’s board for infinity. Bravo Chris!

So now Chris and his business partner, Katy, at Nook Mortgages in Hoylake, also make a kind quarterly donation to Wirral Hospice St John’s from any profit they make from their friendly service. It’s a classic ‘affinity’ relationship and we’re very grateful for their kind contributions.

Both Chris and Katy were keen that their customer focused business should operate in as ethical a way as possible. If honest and reliable advice is what they promise, that had to be reflected in their commitment to the wider community and chosen charity.

Another way in which this was clearly highlighted is when full lockdown was in operation Nook arranged a partnership with Dodo Pizza and Wok and Go to deliver food to NHS and hospice staff in Wirral sending more than 2,500 pizzas to key workers in the borough.

They’re just very good people and on 15th October, Chris and Katy, alongside their families celebrated one year of trading as Nook Mortgages.

From Wirral Hospice St John’s we wish them all very many, many happy returns.

The Night’s Watch: Steve Roberts supports the hospice, both night and day #hospicehero #volunteering #patientcare #fundraising #community

Often you will turn around at Wirral Hospice St John’s and Steve Roberts, often for reasons not always immediately obvious, will be in your line of vision.

He’s an ‘Every-Person’. He might be jet-washing a patio area, fixing a light, cutting grass, checking the CCTV, touching up some paintwork, pat-testing the defibrillators, picking up or starting some laundry or just smiling, ready for a chat, when he picks up the internal or external post.

Employed as a ‘bank’ worker in our night ‘security’ team, he’s available (nearly) all hours of the night when called upon. However, throughout the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond, we’ve also seen him adding hours, which he’s volunteered for, during the day!

Steve is ‘Wirral’ through and through, starting school at Mersey Park in Tranmere and after leaving school he progressed to become a HGV fitter, then joining Unilever as a quality control technician. He then moved across to the security department where he spent 20 of his 39 happy years of service, latterly as security team leader.

In his home life he lives with partner, Jean, on the Eastham/Bromborough border! A keen DIY’er and ‘Man-Caver’ his name recently came up in dispatches, in a missive from the Cheshire Freemasons.

You see, Steve is an active freemason and his charitable works therein have not gone unnoticed. Down the years he’s been very active in both Cheshire and West Lancashire provinces. The Freemasons are renowned charitable givers across a range of charities and Steve also goes above and beyond in his duties.

As a visiting volunteer he helps to assess and administer financial assistance to freemasons and their families who, maybe through redundancy, ill health or even a death, become eligible for the special welfare awards the freemasons can deliver. Also when the government issued a call for citizens to apply to help with ‘community drop off’, Steve, stimulated by the calls to assist the community from within the Cheshire province, was quick to offer his services to the hospice..

Most recently, Steve was able to donate £120 (+ the 25% gift aid he was eligible to claim) to the hospice because a path he built, using 24 contemporary circular stepping stones to his ‘man-cave’ at home, didn’t work for him, after he‘d laid them.

His neighbour, seeing Steve start to take up his work, asked Steve if he could take them off his hands. So, for a discount off the retail price, at £5 per stone, Steve told his neighbour their joint endeavours would now benefit the hospice. CHEERS GENTLEMEN!

Steve’s since built the pathway he wanted – very nice indeed!

In normal times Steve also volunteers to help at various hospice events and special occasions. We see him at our annual Light up a Life lights switch on service* helping to marshal the crowds around the hospice gardens, also helping with the annual Christmas tree collection and he also lends a hand at our Summer ‘It’s a Knockout’ event.

He can’t speak highly enough of the care and compassion of the nurses he observes on his regular night shift. It is a quieter time than the rest of the day but, from time to time, Steve has been able to offer a visiting family member a drink, often tea but sometimes something a little stronger if they’re in any distress (and not driving).  

He loves the atmosphere at the hospice and has a very good rapport with the rest of the maintenance team too. He has a natural cheery disposition and when his night shift is over the last job he has to do before heading home is to feed the fish in our garden pond.

I imagine him spreading the feed, wishing the fish a great day then striding off ready for a well earned rest but also looking forward to the next bit of good work he can do.

Top Man, Steve.

Many Thanks for all you do!

Author: Billy Howard

*Sadly, due to the pandemic and the restrictions that have been put into place preventing crowds gathering, we have decided to cancel this year’s outdoor Light up a Life carol service. We will film a ‘Virtual Light up a Life service’ which will be on our website, this will be available to watch at 6pm on Sunday 6th December.

Born to Run: Hospice physiotherapist Miriam and friend Bev to do Virtual London Marathon for Wirral Hospice St John’s

#healthcare #hospicehero #wirralhospice  #physiotherapy #caring #wellbeing  #fun  #thankyou

Hospice Physio Miriam – with hospice colleagues wishing her well

If you’ve done, or can imagine doing, a London Marathon in normal times, you’ll have trained hard, loaded up with carbs, seen all the publicity build as the day approaches and organised your thoughts about how the day will pan out for you.

There would normally be thousands of people gathering ready to run, jog, trot, plod and, maybe, even walk for a myriad of good causes. Many others would line the streets to cheer on their friends, family and all the other runners around the course.

A huge gathering of humanity and goodwill spurs the runners on and helps them to get ‘over the line’.

However, on Sunday 4th October, and far away from the Capital, thousands of people will still be completing gruelling runs for their chosen charities, just without the extra impetus provided by the crowd.

So, think about doing that 26.2 miles when only you, and one friend, cheered off by a small gathering of your social bubble, are relying on true grit and self-belief to get you around?

Well, that’s what Wirral Hospice St John’s Physio, Miriam Lemon and her friend, Bev Tasker, will be doing on Sunday 4th October, 2020.

Yes, they’re in the 40th London Marathon after more places were made available to allow people to run the distance closer to home on a route of their own choosing (the London course will not be open!)

Miriam and Bev’s route – taking in the Wirral Coastline

We trust Bev will be a great running mate (Miriam says so) and with a number of family, friends and hospice colleagues volunteering to complete sections of the run alongside the pair of marathoners, socially distanced of course, we’re sure they’ll complete the distance with flying colours.

We took the opportunity to find out a little bit more about Miriam, her family and her life at Wirral Hospice St John’s. Before I spoke to her I asked one or two of her colleagues for their opinion on her and her chances:

Her whole family are like the sporting family from the card game Happy Families. She’ll smash it, we call them The Incredibles.

Miriam laughs when I tell her this and with typical humility she says, “I’m the least incredible.”

Daughter, Imogen, 13, is an accomplished short course swimmer and has competed in the Welsh National Championships, while son, Toby, 11, is an all-rounder enjoying football but with his coaches at the Deeside Amateur Athletics Club nurturing a talent for running at all distances from sprinting to 5k (under 21 minutes already!). Incredible!

It turns out husband, Dave (pictured above running with Toby), has completed 5 of the 6 ‘World Marathon’ series in Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York and has only Tokyo to go! Incredible!

The Incredibles on a family hike: L-R, Miriam, Toby, Imogen, Dave and their dog, Lexi

For her part Miriam claims she’s not really a runner. Her sports are Netball, she once starred for Anglesey’s Valley Vixens, and she rowed, most notably for the renowned Worcester Rowing Club.

So why is she running this year?

Miriam had challenged herself that in the year she turns 40 she would complete the ‘Chester Triple’, an annual three event challenge encompassing an organised 10km run, followed by a half marathon and either a ‘metric marathon’, 26km, (which Miriam had signed up for) or a full traditional marathon later in the year.

However, having duly completed the 10k on 8th March, the other events were cancelled in the light of COVID 19. Miriam decided to complete the half on her own in Lockdown and now the (Virtual) London Marathon will round off her own personal triple in 2020. Incredible!

At the hospice Miriam is one of the physiotherapists in our Patient and Family Services team.

She qualified from Keele University early in the new millennium. From there she has worked in the NHS in Worcestershire, moved around with Dave who is in the RAF, taking in Cyprus between 2008 and 2011, via Anglesey and Surrey, where she was able to apply her physiotherapy skills to people in intensive care and to support acute medicine.

Miriam’s now been at Wirral Hospice St John’s for 3 years and explains how physiotherapy fits into the overall support and care we offer patients,

“Our job is to maximise people’s potential, building strength, balance and mobility. We want patients to be as independent as possible, helping them with breathlessness, symptom control, fatigue and anxiety. We’ve found that many patients can benefit from things like acupuncture, help with flexibility and by setting achievable goals people really manage well with their symptoms.”

On her colleagues at the hospice Miriam is heartfelt,

“They really are the best people I could have ever chosen to work with.”

With only 3 weeks before the Marathon all of her colleagues, friends and family will be spurring Miriam (and friend Bev) on. She’s created a Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/miriam-lemon to raise funds towards Wirral Hospice St John’s specialist care and support services

It won’t be easy but there is a word for what she’ll feel when she reaches the finishing line on Sunday 4th October.

Now, What is it again?

Oh YES……… Incredible!

Have The Incredibles discovered the fountain of youth?

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