Spotlight On: Assistant Practitioner, Ashley Quinn, building a firm foundation for the future #healthcare #hospicehero #wirralhospice #caring #wellbeing #fun #thankyou #lifelonglearning

“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Ashley 1If you’re in healthcare, and the first word somebody says, when asked, is that you’re “kind”, then you’re definitely in the right profession. True kindness is showing the same consideration, generosity and care for people that you do with your own close friends and family.

Ashley Quinn, our Assistant Practitioner, embodies kindness.

Mix that into 4 years all-round experience here; assisting within our Inpatient ward, being out-and-about with our Hospice at Home team and, nowadays, embedded in our Wellbeing Centre. Now, after successfully completing a foundation degree (fdSc) in health and social care, Ashley is building a future to the benefit of the people who access our hospice services.

We sat down with Ashley and asked her to share how she arrived at this point in her life and what her ambitions are.

She’s from Wallasey and went to secondary school at Weatherhead High. She confesses, she wasn’t ready for academic pursuits! At 16 she left school to go into hairdressing. She wanted to get straight into work and spent 5 happy years learning her trade.

Although she enjoyed her job immensely she was becoming increasingly inspired by her Mum, Kim, a district nurse in Wallasey. Ashley also particularly loved chatting to the older people whose hair she was doing and became interested in their stories, and their lives.

So, taking the plunge to combine care and the support of older people, Ashley joined Wirral based organisation, Professional Carers. Under contract to Wirral Borough Council and Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) they provide a number of services for people  including domiciliary home care, supported living, as well as short term assessment and re-enablement.

For people using the services, Ashley would carry out duties of personal care and safety, medication prompts, outings, dementia care and other sitting services. It was all great grounding for her future career at Wirral Hospice St John’s.

To our great fortune, four years ago, Ashley successfully applied for a job here as healthcare assistant and has been building all the skills necessary for her chosen vocation. She’s quick to say that she has the best teachers, all helping to consolidate her practise and knowledge.

The initial guidance provided by our Inpatient ward manager, Jill Littlewood,  and ‘lifetime achievement award’ winning nurse, Brenda Taylor in Outpatients (pictured here with Ashley), helped enormously in shaping Ashley’s experience.Ashley 3

Now Ashley is integral in our Wellbeing Centre, working with patients with a range of conditions and healthcare support needs. Helen Parkinson, our Clinical Services Manager, describes her as “amazing, a pivotal member of the team.”

She’s spent the last two years travelling to the Warrington Campus of the University of Chester to study for her foundation degree in health and social care. Of course, she passed with flying colours! It’s another milestone on her journey to a full nursing degree.

Jane and Ashley

In her ‘real life’, Ashley, lives with Richard, her partner of 9 years. After saving up for three years they bought their house in Wallasey and moved in, in 2017. Ashley’s dad, Dave, is a builder and has helped them with a complete refurbishment, including a brand new drive. The most recent addition to the family is Cavapoo, Poppy.

On the hospice, Ashley says, “I love working here, it’s so personally rewarding. I know we’re giving people the best possible care and, in the Wellbeing Centre, I see how much people respond to the support we deliver, how they improve and look forward to coming here.”

(Here’s Ashley, on the left, with her current mentor, Jane Slack, our acting Deputy Clinical Services Manager in Wellbeing, celebrating after hearing their academic results).

I ask various managers for their assessment of Ashley and their testimony is glowing; “I’m really proud of her,” “she’s full of integrity,” “she’s dedicated,” “genuine and reliable”, “Ashley is becoming an established oak from the little acorn who joined us.”

Keep growing Ashley, everyone involved with Wirral Hospice St John’s will be truly delighted!

Author: Billy Howard

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Spotlight On: Norma Edwards, a vastly valuable volunteer in our Wellbeing Centre #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #caring #thankyou #wellbeing #fun #activities

Norma with SantaEvery Wednesday and Friday morning you will see Norma radiating positive energy in our Wellbeing Centre. She’ll be making people a cuppa, lending a friendly ear, giving her home-spun advice and helping to facilitate creative therapies with patients. She’s a lovely person. Someone you would trust with your most valuable possessions.

I asked her if we could share her story and she made a date to have a cuppa with me in Wirral Hospice St John’s Hub Café. I was planning to have a chat and jot down some notes to work from, but Norma comes prepared with a written account of her life and how it has led to volunteering. That certainly made my job easier (which I’m all for!) so, in (almost) her own words, here’s Norma’s story.

My life as a volunteer began in the early 1990’s. I’d promised myself around ten years earlier I would give something back as soon as I was able. You see, in 1984, when he was only nine years old, our son, Andy, underwent major surgery to remove a benign tumour within his spine. The fantastic skill of the surgeon, backed up with wonderful nursing care and Andy’s own quiet determination led to a remarkable recovery, exceeding everybody’s expectations.

We all persevered and Andy made up for lost time in his school work. As my husband, Reay, and I waved him off to University I found myself with time to spare.

I trained as a volunteer at, what is now, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, working two sessions a week on their Delamere Day Case Unit (which is dedicated to delivering chemotherapy to patients) getting to know patients and their families as they underwent, often several months of, treatment.

I had 11 very happy years there but, for a brief period, I myself had to rely on the great personal support of the staff and fellow volunteers on Delamere. I was diagnosed with ocular melanoma – a rare eye cancer. The treatment was a fairly strange and lonely experience. Five days of continuous plaque radiotherapy, in isolation. My professor was pioneering a more conservative treatment designed to minimise sight loss.

It was a new procedure with nothing guaranteed but I agreed to take the risk. I feel incredibly fortunate that it was a complete success. My tumour was dealt with and now, I visit the eye cancer research unit every year, twenty years on my sight is as good as anybody’s my age. Once again I felt incredibly fortunate.

As life got back to normal, working part time at a local pharmacy, volunteering and enjoying life there was no major drama for several years.

In 2007, Reay took early retirement and we were looking forward to a new beginning for us both. Fatefully, it was not to be. Reay was diagnosed with prostate cancer and after rallying following early treatment, he was admitted to Wirral Hospice St John’s.

What a wonderful place we knew we were in. Although Reay’s condition gradually worsened we experienced great care on every level. Nothing was too much trouble and the support that was extended to us all made us feel like we were home from home. Sadly, Reay’s illness was advanced and he died soon after.

In time I knew I wanted to get back into volunteering. I also wanted to repay the kindness, care and support I’d felt at the hospice. So I started working for a day a week on what was then called daycare. This grew into day therapy and is now the Wellbeing Centre where I work alongside Penny as an ‘activities volunteer.’ Two mornings a week I love getting involved in art therapy, group work and especially our card making.Norma 2

Reay was at Unilever for 30 years and outside of the hospice Norma is an active member of the company’s retirement group. Norma has a full life on top of what she does for the Hospice. Day trips, overnight breaks, theatre visits, lunches, other social events and holidays are all part of the fun. She also enjoys spending family time with Andy and daughter in law, Tracy, and also looks forward to spending time with her other relations in South Wales.

Norma

I ask Norma to conclude by telling us of her general thoughts of what she experiences at the hospice,

“The atmosphere is always, warm, welcoming, friendly and informal. The air is often punctuated with laughter with our patients. Some people may have an old fashioned idea of hospices and I just think, Wow! It’s not like that at all. It’s the kindness, isn’t it? There is a lot of ‘normality’, if you know what I mean. I love the banter that happens but also know when somebody just wants to talk and then it’s my job to listen, adding a kind word if I can. It is a pleasure to play a small part in it all.”

It’s no small part, Norma, and long may it continue.

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Bill Collins, 80 years young and a #wirralhospice #volunteer for more than 30 years #hospicehero #caring #fundraising #congratulations #wellbeing #patientcare #wirralcommunity

Bill Collins with CaroleDevoted Wirral Hospice St John’s volunteer, Mr Bill Collins, speaks from the heart, “I love the place, I love the people, I just love everything about it!”

Bill is a big part of hospice life. He’s volunteered at Wirral Hospice St John’s for over 30 years, and, nowadays, he adds massive value to our inpatients ward every Tuesday evening. He feels the special emotions of Christmas time too – he has given two or three hours of his time every Christmas and Boxing Day for all of those years.

On the Inpatient ward at the hospice, Bill will serve patients and their families with drinks, make sure people have fresh water and, whenever asked, will be available for a welcome chat. Our volunteers help to take some of the time pressures from the ward staff and, although Bill won’t take credit, we know it must be more than a little cheering and interesting for any patient, or family member, who spends a little time just chewing the fat with Bill.

He doesn’t say it but, it’s clear from our conversation, Bill is also a team player. He always wants to mention the hard work and dedication of fellow volunteers, especially his friend Margaret Halewood who has been volunteering with him on the ward for 25 years. He also credits volunteer receptionists Tina Hughes and Karen Ellis, who are part of the Inpatients ward Tuesday evening volunteer group.

When asked what he thinks of the hospice and the people he meets or works alongside, his passion shines through; “I think the world of them, I’m just so proud to be a part of it. All our services and all the different people, patients, families, volunteers and staff, we’re like a family”,

Bill Collins

Bill got involved with volunteering after his own Mum, Nell’s, progressive illness worsened and he spent time as the main carer for her and later when his Dad, Jack, also became ill. He’d taken early retirement from Shell at their Thornton research facility, now part of the University of Chester, where he’d been a laboratory steward, to fulfil his carer’s role.

After his Mum passed away, Bill was asked to consider volunteering at Wirral Hospice St John’s. He remembers applying and as soon as his ‘induction’ was completed he “loved it straight away.” Joyce Reeves (later Jones) was the first Matron of the hospice, serving between 1983 and 1998. He fondly recalls Matron Jones as “a wonderful woman.”

He chuckles heartily when he recounts the time the hospice obtained its first bed hoist. The nurses insisted that Bill was the ideal candidate to test the equipment. “I was like a puppet suspended in mid-air, while the nurses were enjoying the spectacle, laughing their heads off.” (It would be a ‘Health and Safety’ thing nowadays, so new volunteers shouldn’t worry!)

Bill keeps himself fit by swimming four times a week, doing plenty of walking and looking in on his ‘older’ neighbours in Bromborough. What is remarkable, and might be news to some of his friends around the hospice, is he had a triple heart by-pass in 2001! Typical of Bill, he plays it down! “I’ve just listened to the doctors, I watch what I eat and I’ve had no major problems!”

We’re really glad to hear it, Bill.

He enjoys his holidays and short breaks. Trips to North Wales are a pleasure he thoroughly enjoys but, most of all, Bill looks forward to his annual trip to the Algarve, with a gang of people who have become firm friends over the years. He stays in a little village called Sesmarias not far from the tranquil Praia de Coelha beach and a short drive into the bustling town of Albufeira. Lovely!

Bill Collins 2

Bill helps the hospice in other ways too. Each year he helps to run the St Barnabas church hall Christmas Fayre, in Bromborough, with his good friend, Betty Richards. The first year he did this he made £63 and now, following this year’s event, selling hospice Christmas cards and calendars, Bill has now raised over £25,000 since becoming a volunteer.

By writing a special poem in recent years for our annual Light up a Life switch-on service in the hospice gardens, Bill has also made an extra special contribution to the whole Wirral community.

This year’s poem  is so poignant and I ask Bill where he gets his inspiration. “I think of all the people I’ve met at the hospice down the years. I write for the families who have been touched by what we do, my mum and dad, and my sister, Barbara, and her family. Being involved as a volunteer has made me a better person.”

Here is Bill’s heartfelt poem:

Memories in Lights

You’re in my thoughts every single day,
Of things we did and things we’d say,

How we laughed, the times we cried,
Always together, side by side.

When we hugged and when we kissed,
The times we sat and reminisced.

It’s hard to take, now we’re apart
But you’re forever in my heart.

I see your face within the light,
And feel you’re here, with me, tonight.

Wonderful, Bill!

In a magnificent coincidence, this inspiring story is published on Bill’s 80th birthday (6th December, 2018).

Some, of his very many, hospice friends gathered to say, “Many Happy Returns, Bill, thank you so much for all that you do for Wirral Hospice St John’s.”

Bill Collins 80 Group

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Jane Slack, a calling for caring! #nursing #hospicehero #wellbeing #wirralhospice #lifelonglearning #caring #honoursdegree #congratulations #thankyou

Jane Slack“Kind, considerate, caring, and compassionate” are some of the words colleagues, volunteers and patients have used when I ask them to describe our senior nurse, Jane Slack. She is currently acting Deputy Clinical Services Manager (covering maternity leave) in our Wellbeing Centre. She’s been at Wirral Hospice St John’s for 11 years and, while other terms, “reliable, passionate, fun, engaging” are also descriptions I hear of Jane, we can now add another one, ‘brainy.’

We already knew that Jane was intelligent and knowledgeable but she’s just proved it by gaining her BSc (Hons) degree in palliative and end of life care from the University of Chester. The degree represents a significant academic qualification to back up Jane’s experience and expertise.

Passing modules in symptom management, general palliative care, loss and grief, advanced communication, leadership and, of course, evidence based practice have enhanced Jane’s performance and expanded on her natural ability.

So, what exactly motivates Jane Slack?

“Well” she explains, “I was brought up in a home where the door was always open. My mum and dad are caring people. They’re always ready for a kind word over a cup of tea, some sage advice, they were actually my guiding lights“.

You see, Jane’s dad, Richard, is a retired vicar and his mission in life, together with Jane’s mum, Barbara, because of their faith, to show God’s love to people.

Jane was brought up in Malaysia, where her mum and dad were missionaries for the Anglican Communion. Richard trained new priests and workers for the church and, in fact, the current Archbishop of SE Asia was one of his students.

When the family returned to the UK it was no surprise that Jane’s first degree was in RE. She studied at St Martin’s in Lancaster, now part of the University of Cumbria. Interestingly St Martin of Tours, whom the college was named after was a Roman soldier who tore his cloak in two to clothe a beggar, renouncing the life of a soldier to take on a life of caring!

It was a natural progression for Jane to get involved in a career in nursing. She started her hospice journey at the renowned St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds on the in-patients ward and had now realised her vocation. Jane loved working on the ward and learned of the strength of families and other carers when they might be facing some of the most challenging times with loved ones.

To our great benefit, marriage, to Kevin, a barrister based in chambers in Liverpool, meant that Jane was to make the move across the Pennines to find a home in our appealing Wirral peninsular and also a job as a Band 5 nurse, bringing her skills and expertise to our Inpatient ward.

“I really love my job. I love how the hospice, specifically, can care for people really well. By sharing experience and also studying I know that we bring the most up to date care that we can possibly give. I never stop admiring how much people’s relatives love and support their loved ones. This has helped me gain an appreciation and understanding what everyone is going through.”

And here we are 11 years later. Jane is a Band 6 nurse. She credits the Wolfson Foundation (a philanthropic organisation which, in association with Hospice UK, offers funding for education in healthcare) for helping with a bursary grant for her nursing degree. She tells me her wonderful Mother-in Law, Judith, has also been very supportive throughout.

Jane and AshleyHere’s Jane on the right of the picture (we’re going to feature Ashley too (on the left), after she gained a foundation degree in health and social care).

In Jane’s other ‘real life’ she and Kevin are inspiring their boys, Henry, 8, and Barnaby, 4, to lead as good a life as possible. In Jane’s hands we’re sure that a bright future lies ahead for two, positively enlightened, young men.

 

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Wendie Darlington – Happy to “do whatever’s needed” for Wirral Hospice St John’s for the past 31 years #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #care #loveandsupport #hospicecare

Wendie DWendie Darlington is a lady who gets things done! Her mum and dad were farmers and, growing up on a farm, there was no time for dallying. She volunteers in Wirral Hospice St John’s Inpatient Ward every Wednesday morning between 9 and 11am and the hospice is eternally grateful that she does.

In fact, Wendie’s been volunteering here for more than 30 years. In that time she’s got stuck into every voluntary job asked of her. She says, “As a volunteer I’m just here to help and I’ll do whatever’s needed, anything that gives time to the clinical staff and nurses to do their vital jobs.”

Nowadays it is making sure the patients’ morning coffees, teas and biscuits are delivered with a smile, and often a friendly chat. Water jugs are collected and refreshed, tout suite. Any other help the kitchen team requests is met with Wendie’s trademark ‘can do’ attitude.

In her early days at the hospice, Wendie engaged in a whole host of tasks; ironing, washing up, preparing snacks and teas, cleaning in the kitchen, on the ward and, in fact, whatever was needed.

Like all Wirral Hospice St John’s volunteers she is incredibly humble. She gives her volunteer partners the credit for the smooth running of all their ward duties. One week it is Ronnie (Veronica Wilkinson) and the next is Barbara Pearce. She praises them for their dedication and commitment to our patients and staff team, without any acknowledgement of her own personal contribution.

After their shift, Wendie really enjoys catching up with Ronnie and Barbara for a coffee and a chat in the hospice Hub Café. That’s where I meet her to have a cuppa and find out a bit more about what drives her to help make a difference.

The truth is, her story starts with family heartbreak. Her Dad, Wally Charlesworth, was the farmer at Grange Farm, Raby.  When he was diagnosed with throat cancer at the age of 55 it hit Wendie’s family hard. Her mum, Marjorie, who loved Wally deeply and hadn’t had a day apart from him since they were married in their early 20’s, could not acknowledge the illness, much less submit to the necessary changes it would bring to their daily lives.

Wendie, 29 at the time, stepped into the carer’s role. It is right, or should be, that such circumstances are described, and recognised, as ‘full-time’ work. However, life doesn’t work quite like that. It certainly didn’t 40 years ago! Wendie balanced caring for her Dad with managing the family haulage business with husband, John. While their children, twins Mandy and Sarah, then 11, and new baby, Phillipa, were all in need of their Mum’s time.

Wally was treated at the legendary ‘military huts’ on the site where the now famous Clatterbridge Cancer Centre now stands. His illness was managed by the hospital but his personal needs were taken care of by Wendie, with no other formal support, from home. Wirral Hospice St John’s had not been established.

Wendie’s dad eventually succumbed to his illness. Marjorie, her mum, never stopped grieving, but did live a long life, dedicated to her work, until the age of 87.

So around five years after her dad died, a friend and neighbour of Wendie was admitted to the relatively new, St John’s Hospice. After visiting she found it slightly difficult to explain to people that she actually felt happy for her friend. “She was so content, never in pain. At the hospice she was receiving the exact right care I wished I could have had for my Dad. I wanted to get involved straightaway”.

We’re really glad she did! Thirty years of voluntary service at the hospice followed.

But, that’s not the end of Wendie’s story. Not only does she volunteer here she also volunteers for our local children’s hospice, Claire House. Having experienced the specialist support at Wirral Hospice St John’s she was a massive enthusiast for younger people having such a service. Quite right!

After meeting with Claire’s parents, Christine and Bobby Cain, she determined to help them to raise funds to get started. (Wendie really does not go into any more detail with me about her role in getting Claire House established and I had to do some more personal research). In 2011 she was awarded an MBE for services to Charity. She has helped to raise many, many thousands of pounds.

Wendie 2

She won’t talk about it, so I don’t push her. All I will say is that when you read all of the press quotes at the time, she gives credit to the other volunteers, her husband and daughters who have helped with everything down the years.

Nowadays, as well as her volunteering work, Wendie meets any challenges, as you’d expect, head on! She is taking great joy in seeing her grandchildren, Jack 17, Molly 13, Maisie 10 and Sadie 7 growing up.

There is huge appreciation here for the hours and hours of time Wendie has dedicated to Wirral Hospice St Johns, a massive acknowledgement of her other charity work and we’ll look forward to seeing her every Wednesday, working, helping, chatting and smiling on our Inpatient Ward.

Wendie, all we can say honestly is, we really, really, appreciate you!

Author: Billy Howard

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