Spotlight On: Colin Middlebrough – a volunteer we can all count on! #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #wirral #fundraising

ColinIf you could choose anyone to count out all the coins (and often notes) that are donated to Wirral Hospice St John’s via collection boxes distributed all around Wirral, in shops, bars, hairdressers, chemists and a host of other businesses, as well as at bag-packing and other events, you would do well if you could find a former bank auditor!

Happily, we have that very man. His name is Colin Middlebrough.

He’s been volunteering here for 7 years now and every Wednesday, with a cheery ‘”Good Morning”, he’ll greet people in finance, fundraising and other volunteers around the place, with a ready quip or funny anecdote, before bunkering down in a quiet room to start counting.

In the week of his 80th birthday – 80? No Way! – Colin shared some of his life story with us.Colin 80]

The legend is that, in 1940, Fred and Bessie Middlebrough welcomed baby Colin into the world during an air raid over Liverpool. Born at Mill Road Maternity Hospital (where there was a tragic bombing in 1941), he spent his formative years in Armley Road, off Priory Road in Anfield, not far from the home of his beloved reds, Liverpool FC.

By age 15 Colin was nurturing his lifelong talent, playing the drums! He’d be bashing the skins and cymbals in the terraced house he was brought up in and he chuckles when he recalls, “I think the old lady next door was deaf so it never bothered her, although I think I may have driven the other neighbours mad. They used to throw bricks through the window…… so they could hear me better!”

His 1958 skiffle group, The All Blacks (they were admirers of the New Zealand rugby team), were regulars at the original Cavern Club, winning a competition to be a support act at The Liverpool Empire Theatre for a week.

Colin subsequently worked on the same bill and met many famous artists and groups, The Beatles, Rory Storm, Cliff Richard, Jim Dale of ‘Carry On’ film fame, Ike and Tina Turner’s Ikettes, Queen, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Merseybeats and many more.

(You could say Colin is our MBE – Mersey Beat Expert!)Colin KC5

Here’s Colin pictured with The Kansas City Five (they were six actually) in Liverpool in 1961. Colin is 3rd from the left. Just behind him is Tommy Hughes (we told his wife, Angela’s, story here)  Bruce McCaskill (in the photo 2nd from right) was Eric Clapton’s road manager and also managed Scottish R&B combo the Average White Band. 

The gigging was going well but by 1969 he was also looking for something steady. He joined Midland Bank (now HSBC) as a cashier in the days when it was compulsory dark suits, ties and a white shirt. He continued to gig with his covers band, The Jaywalkers, while working his way up at the bank to become a Senior Auditor.

How he also found time for refereeing amateur football matches is a wonder and Colin tells a great story of the time he was to referee the Cup Final between Guinness Exports and Littlewood’s Stores in the Liverpool Business Houses Football League in the 1960’s. As representatives of the opposing teams approached him separately before the game, it is only speculation what he could have earned in Guinness, or a year’s worth of new outfits. Of course, Colin refereed with the ultimate integrity.

As life went there was also time for volunteering. He helped, as treasurer between 1989 and 1994, to establish the Merseyside entertainers’ charity, The Merseycats, (find Colin in the middle of Row 19 at this link) which organises events to raise funds for children’s charities in the region.

Through entertainment he became involved with the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundationand recalls a gig at The Liverpool Empire in the early 90’s in aid of the Roy Castle charity which led to him meeting the late great famous actor, Sir John Mills.

Colin got chatting to Sir John at the after-show get together at the Adelphi Hotel (as you do!). After Lady Mills retired for the evening Sir John asked Colin if he’d like to take a nightcap with him. Assuming there would be a call to the waiter, Colin was surprised, and delighted, when Sir John undid the head of his walking cane to allow him to pour out a ‘tipple’ of brandy, which he kept in the shaft of his cane! Class!

So, seven years ago, Colin remembers meeting our volunteer services manager, Carole, at a function and the subject of counting all the pennies came up. He’s been here ever since  and has counted tens of thousands of pounds for Wirral Hospice St John’s.

Colin MarioHe’s also been involved in loads of fundraising himself and last year, with a group of his good friends from The Wheatsheaf pub in Raby Mere, he led a ‘Movemberesque’ effort which raised around £2,000 for the hospice. The story made the Wirral Globe and, good sport that he is, he also posed with a spoof moustache in the photograph here.

Grandad Colin has three grandsons, Fionn Padraig, who lives in Ireland, and who Skype’s Colin regularly, and Logan and Aaron who live closer to home, in Wirral.

Colin is literally our man for all seasons and we’re delighted to have him on the team.

Happy 80th, Sir, and many, many happy returns!

Author: Billy Howard

“It’s Not What You Think!” Mr Bob Taylor gives us a patient’s view of Wirral Hospice St John’s #inpatients #wirralhospice #wellbeing #goodqualitycare #caring #thankyou

It's Not What You ThinkMr Bob Taylor of Eastham, who has spent a little bit of time on Wirral Hospice St John’s Inpatient ward, wanted to share his thoughts about spending time at the hospice. In his writing he wanted to emphasise ‘IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK’ throughout, and these are his words below. (He also didn’t want his photo taken, so we’ve taken some of the ward teams – starting with volunteers, Sue and Barbara, ready to take patients their morning coffee/tea).

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

“My name is Bob Taylor. I have lung cancer and I would like to share my thoughts about Wirral Hospice St John’s

When you first hear the word ‘hospice’ a lot of people, myself included, think it’s the end. How wrong we are. It’s so far from it!

This is my second visit. I was admitted this time to get some pain control and to rest a little, so that I could get to a level where I can go back home.

This time I’ve been here for a couple of weeks. I really wasn’t feeling at all well when I came in, but now I know I’ll be going home again in a day or two.

Once again the hospice has done an excellent job.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINKINWYT 3

I could write lots of positive things about the different members of staff and volunteers who attend to my symptoms and comforts. The best way I can think of is that they give all of us patients FIVE STAR care.

It’s top quality care by top quality people.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

INWYT 2On my first visit to the hospice, as I became a little better, a lady* came and asked me what I wanted for breakfast.

Being a Smart Alec, I asked for bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, beans and toast. She apologised because, just then, there was no black pudding! I couldn’t believe it when a few minutes later a full breakfast turned up at my bedside.

It was so fresh, the butter hadn’t fully melted into my hot toast! She then asked me if I wanted her to order some black pudding for the next day. (Nothing was too much for her).

Every meal at the hospice is cooked on-site to an excellent standard in, what I found out, is a FIVE STAR food standards authority, kitchen. (Pictured left, l-r, Margie* (cook), Toni (volunteer), Elaine (catering supervisor) and Mary (volunteer))

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

If in the future you are offered a place at Wirral Hospice St John’s for pain management, and/or symptom control and for the right type of rest, do not give it a second thought, GIVE IT A GO!”

Thank You, Mr Bob Taylor, for the kind words. Thank you also to wife, Yvonne, with all their family and friends who are also helping the hospice to raise funds, from personal donations to taking part in supporter and hospice events, they are an inspiration to everyone at Wirral Hospice St John’s.

Author: Billy Howard (with major contribution by Bob Taylor)

Spotlight On: Merseyside and Cheshire Blood Bikes. The Hidden Emergency Service. #hospicecare #health #wellbeing #inpatients #outpatients #heroes

Blood Bikes Norman and PeterSpeedy analysis of blood samples is essential for assessing the most appropriate treatment for our patients at Wirral Hospice St John’s. Both outpatients and inpatients benefit from such tests which are, predominantly, carried out at Arrowe Park Hospital.

So for the most efficient transfer to the lab, we’ve been building our partnership with the brilliant team at Merseyside and Cheshire Blood Bikes (MCBB) over the past few months.

I met with trustee of MCBB, Norman Corke, alongside rider Peter Preston, (pictured here l-r), to find out a little more about the motivation of volunteers, day to day operations and what happens behind the scenes to make it all work.

Blood Bikes are an essential support to many parts of the NHS, and now also the hospice. What is more is, they provide their fantastic service costing us, precisely, zero, zilch, gratis, it’s FREE!

These lads and ladies who you’ll see on the highways and byways in their bright yellow, hi-vis jackets, emblazoned with the word ‘BLOOD’ on their backs, are delivering fluid samples, boxes of blood, platelets, plasma, medication and even litres and litres of donated breast milk, and doing it all ‘just to put something back into society!’ Wow, WHAT?

Yes, many use their own bikes, there’s a shared love of motorcycles, and they don’t even claim their petrol expenses! They are literally Angels (not, you’ll understand, Hells Angels!)

Blood Bikes Peter

As a rider, Peter (pictured here on his bike), can speak at first-hand about the kinds of incentive that draw volunteers to blood bikes.

“Everybody has a personal reason for getting involved. Mine is that I’m so grateful to the NHS which has helped me in my recovery, these past thirteen years, from esophageal cancer. We all love our bikes, obviously, and Blood Bikes gives us the perfect excuse to do exactly what we love for the most amazing causes.

We hardly ever know exactly why a particular delivery is important but I’ve had many instances of grateful family members approaching me to thank me for what ‘we’ have done for them. I’ve been at a petrol station several times and when I’ve arrived at the kiosk to pay, an anonymous member of the public has ‘taken care of it’!”

Trustee Norman tells me that there are more than 75 riders in MCBB and, there are hundreds more in 43 county areas, across the country, affiliated to the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes whose slogan is ‘we may well be having the ride of your life!‘. Nice!

In every region there’s a dedicated ‘backroom’ of volunteer duty controllers. These are the people who take the phone-calls and then disseminate jobs to the riders. They also give all their time for free.

The hospice call an 0843 number, peak times are between 12.30pm-1.30pm and 5.00pm-6.00pm, although there are other times when the service may be urgent and the call is routed to a duty controller to find the nearest driver.

Riders have to be over 25, have held a full, clean, motorcycle licence for over two years with no ‘fault’ accident in the last five. There are 8 fully liveried, ‘marked,’ bikes in the MCBB fleet, with many riders using their own vehicles.

Blood Bikes MasonVarious partner organisations have donated the funds to purchase the marked bikes over the past couple of years, recognising the importance of Blood Bikes to the smooth and efficient transfer of materials between health environments, as well as medications to people who need them. (The Provincial Grand Lodge of Cheshire Freemasons, also hospice supporters, purchased this Blood Bike, The Cheshire Mason).

Sometimes bloods and other samples have to be transferred across the country and the journeys are facilitated by a ‘relay’ system which has bikers meeting around county borders and in motorway service areas to keep the samples moving.

Norman tells me how 450 litres of breast milk goes via Holyhead to Ireland, Northern and the Republic, every year on Blood Bikes.

New bikes are fitted with ‘Blues and Two’s’ but it’s not yet legal for them to be used by the Blood Bikes riders, whatever the urgency of any particular job. So they can’t ‘jump lights or drive discourteously. They are at pains to be ambassadors for safe motorcycle riding.

And the courtesy has not gone unnoticed. In August the Chair of MCBB, Simon Dennett, received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service on behalf of all the incredible people who give their time for this invaluable charity. Simon was effusive about the people who make it happen,

“This award has brought a very much deserved boost to our members, their dedication and commitment without hope of reward is humbling to witness. Their passion in the service we deliver has been recognised by Her Majesty and the entire group is bursting with pride as we look forward to the recognition which accompanies it.”

And we, at Wirral Hospice St John’s, salute everyone involved.

‘God speed’, as they say!

Author: Billy HowardBlood Bikes

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.”

Lights - Copy

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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