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/partner, Beth, and youngest brother Phil and his wife/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 Donation Station. Pre-loved goods now being gathered at our Hoylake Donation Centre #wirralhospice #charityshops #pre-loved #volunteers #care #hospicecare #thankyou

Paddy Thumbs UpIt’s 9.45am on a bright Wednesday morning in Market Street in Hoylake. The cafés and bars are preparing their morning coffee and brunch offers, setting out neat tables and chairs for their customers in the open air as well as spacing them safely indoors.

Some retailers are also open and taking the necessary precautions so that their customers can shop safely whilst observing the current coronavirus guidelines.

Wirral Hospice St John’s big new Hoylake Donation Centre (HDC), at the former site of the Coop store, adjacent to The Row in Hoylake, is already buzzing with staff and volunteers sifting through thousands of items of clothing, toys, household items, bags, and jewellery as well as all kinds of weird (occasionally) and wonderful bric-a-brac and accessories that piled in the week before.

From rags (gratefully accepted as we can get a donation for recycling them) to potential riches, witness Hayley in the designer sunglasses alongside other potentially lucrative branded clothing, shoes, handbags and eye-catching curios which will be sorted for the hospice ebay account. Hayley Sunglasses

It’s only the second week of operation but the HDC is in full swing. Everything that has been donated in the previous week has now been safely quarantined (has to be for at least 72 hours).

As the centre is only open on Wednesdays and Thursdays, between 10am and 3pm for donations, all of the previous week’s goodies are now being furiously sorted for re-distribution to the charity shops.

There’s 6,000 square feet of space with the floors clearly marked off ready for the influx of new donors who have booked a slot to drop off their goods at the rear of the donation centre!

At five minutes to ten the first car arrives with a boot (and back seat) full of boxes and bin bags ready to stack onto the loading bay at the rear of the store.

Our supporters have followed the instructions at www.wirralhospice.org/shopping to book a slot and then received an email with a map explaining how to get to the back of the store at their chosen time.

l-r Hayley and Jamie LeighPaddy (Patrick Smith, the hospice’s Retail Development Manager, thumbs up in the pic at the top of this story) is ready, alongside a further two fundraising staff (today it’s Hayley and Jamie-Leigh, pictured below, although a number of others have helped the week before and are ready to step in for the foreseeable future), to greet the hospice supporters, direct them to safely lay down their pre-loved items and then, if they’re eligible, advise them on how to sign-up to Gift Aid to allow the hospice to claim a further 25% on their donated items.

Now, the the safe movement and storage begins and, let me tell you, it’s a virtual marathon!

A steady stream of donors start to unload and, after labelling the bags and boxes which are gift-aided, the team start to make the journey, laden with bags, into the space inside and then back outside to receive/carry more and more goods.

By 11am the team have already clocked up over 4,000 steps each and their biceps and quadriceps are burning. A great workout, just another 4 or 5 hours to go!

Kerry SortingMeanwhile, Kerry  (in green here), Sue (in hospice blue below) and Helen (too shy for photo), who normally volunteer at our New Brighton shop, are in the ‘space beyond storage’, opening bin bags and boxes, at socially distanced tables, while organizing everything ready for transport to our shops at Moreton, Liscard, Birkenhead and New Brighton which have recently re-opened.Sue Sorting

In time our other charity shops, at Claughton, Heswall and West Kirby, will also open and the stock that is now flooding into the Hoylake Donation Centre will help to fill up their rails, shelves and displays.​​​​​​​

Having to close the shops these past several months due to the coronavirus has inevitably hit revenues hard. All of the donations and the hard work of staff and volunteers gives us all the greatest belief that we will, as soon as allowed, rebuild the charity shops back to making their massive financial contribution to the specialist care and support services for which the hospice is held in such high regard.

Quite Rightly!

There is now a limited service for people wanting to donate larger items, sofas, three-piece suites, beds, wardrobes and other furniture items. Time and space is currently at a premium for this and potential donors are being asked to send photos, with fire labels where appropriate, to fundraising@wirralhospice.org to join the waiting list for pick up.

There are also opportunities for people who live in or close to Hoylake, and who might like to volunteer to help with sorting goods, to join the effort. Any people who may have some time to spare, can use the same email address to register their interest. 

This one’s for you Dad. Andy McKinney and friends to ride from Chester to Amsterdam in memory of dad, Paul. #hospicehero #hospicecare #nursing #fundraising #bikeride #care #thank you

Andy McKinney with bikersAndy McKinney is full of pride when he remembers his dad, Paul, who was with us at Wirral Hospice St John’s until October 2019 when he passed away, having lived with throat and lung cancer for several years.

The hospice couldn’t do enough for my dad. The nurses were so attentive and the care he received was, honestly, second to none. He’d be delighted now that we’re aiming to raise some funds for the hospice with our bike ride from Chester to Amsterdam. The lads have been training so hard to make him proud.

Yes, on Wednesday 19th August, Andy and six other friends will be setting off on their bikes from the iconic Eastgate Clock in Chester to arrive three days later, via the Hook of Holland port, to Amsterdam Rijksmuseum (not ‘bikes museum’!)

It’s a grueling and intense ride from one beautiful City to another. The first day is, just the 71 miles, the steepest in climbs (up to around nearly 1400 feet in parts), will see them eventually settle for the evening in the Pennines at Thurlstone MillHouse.

Then, day two is the small matter of 82 miles from South to East Yorkshire to Hull, again the undulating terrain which will test even the keenest of riders.

Having taken the ferry from Hull to Hook of Holland (Hoek Van Holland) on the third leg of their epic journey they ride out on the final 45 mile ride up to Amsterdam. Thankfully in Holland, as everyone knows, the land is a little flatter so that should help on the now, extremely, tired legs.

Andy tells me a little bit more about his dad, (they’re pictured together here enjoying a drink).Andy McKinney with Dad Paul

Paul was born in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada and Andy’s the middle sibling of three brothers all also born in Canada.

Andy McKinney dad coachAs you might guess Ice Hockey was a favourite sport and when Paul and his sons came to the UK, he coached the Deeside Junior Ice Hockey club, The Deeside Dragons. He was held in great affection by many young people, being seen as a teacher and mentor by everyone who enjoyed their time there.

He lived in Chester for many years before settling in Wirral with his beloved Tarnya whom he met at the winter Ice Rink at Chester Zoo which he managed and where she was head of first aid.

They settled in Wirral where Paul’s passion for the whole region flourished, so much so, that Andy says they could have made him a Blue Badge Tour Guide for all of his visiting friends and relatives.

Before, during and, really, despite his illness Paul always motivated his sons to develop positive attitudes, to follow their dreams, travel the world and challenge themselves to new things and sporting achievements.

Andy himself is now a professional player in the National Ice Hockey League for Telford Tigers and, although he’s too humble to say, a google search shows he’s more than capable of handling himself in a very tough sport!Andy McKinney playing

So you just know that, as they’re all set to go, the team made up of Andy and friends, Joel Bate, Tom Briggs, Matt Davison, Luke Briggs, Jack Watkins and Ross Kennedy will be in good shape to complete the challenge.

Andy launched a Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-paul-mckinney setting a challenging target of £10,000 between them to make a great donation to the hospice.

Great good luck chaps. Or ‘Succes (no extra ‘s’) as the Dutch will definitely say.

Author: Billy Howard

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

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 (adapted)

“How many kinds of sweet flowers grow,

In our Wirral Hospice garden?

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

Those we miss you’ll surely pardon).

Daffodil’s, Heart’s Ease and Phlox,

Meadowsweet and Lady Smocks,

Gentian, lupine and tall hollyhocks,

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

In our Wirral Hospice Garden.

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

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

Donna Ellis is that person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donna describes the moment when Jess came into the world,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donna Xmas

Wow!

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Billy Howard

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