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

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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.

All we can say honestly is, we really appreciate you, Our Wendie!

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Geoff Shannon – adding a telescopic view of volunteering for Wirral Hospice St John’s #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #wirral #wellbeing

GeoffIf you get a chance, please spend a little bit of time with our Wellbeing Centre’s charismatic and engaging volunteer, Mr Geoff Shannon. He’s the kind of person, you just know, who will help you out if he can possibly do so.

He was recently spied across the hospice gardens ‘up-cycling’ (painting) some of Wellbeing Centre’s darker furniture into an eye-catching and bright, shabby chic! It was a nice day and a perfect opportunity to take a photo of one of Wirral Hospice St John’s ‘volunteers in action’.

A brief discussion allowed me to find out that Geoff was recently retired, was soon to be spending more time volunteering in the Wellbeing Centre and that he had actually previously been helping out for a year at the hospice’s main reception, every other Monday between 6pm and 9pm.

We asked Geoff’s permission to use the photo on Social Media. Some 3,000 people showed their love and support and, after also seeing several heartfelt comments, I knew we needed to find out some more about Mr Geoff Shannon so we had a chat over a cuppa in our Hub Café.

He began his career in 1970 at Plessey Telecommunications in Liverpool. From apprentice to fully qualified mechanical engineer over the next six years, Geoff was ready for pastures new. This was not only in his working life, in 1976 he married his sweetheart, Brenda. (These days Brenda also volunteers, at Arrowe Park Hospital).

A growing family, son Matthew and daughter Jenny, followed, and Geoff’s skills took him in many directions work-wise until he settled in Wirral. After spending 15 years at the world famous Champion Spark Plugs in Upton, Geoff bagged the mechanical engineer’s job of a lifetime.

Telescope Technologies, based at Twelve Quays in Wirral was originally set up to build a 2 meter optical telescope to search the cosmos from La Palma in the Canary Islands. The business was funded by Liverpool John Moores University and Canadian Entrepreneur, Dill Faulkes. Geoff was part of the team that built the telescope here, then took it apart again, and re-fitted it in place in La Palma. Nice Work, if you can get it!

The company’s ambition grew and Geoff subsequently worked in India, Australia, Hawaii and China, refitting and building telescopes, all making a significant contribution to our universal understanding of space. His final job before retiring was for the organisation, the National Oceanographic Centre, which owns our own Bidston Observatory in Wirral.

LUAL Geoff, Penny, AshleySo how does a space-age engineer find himself volunteering at Wirral Hospice St John’s? Well, after retirement, Geoff knew he wanted to give something back if he could. He was aware of Wirral Hospice St John’s in the same way many people are. He had a broad idea of what hospices do. He knew we ‘did good’. He knew we supported people with life-limiting illnesses.

So, just over a year ago and sitting in the Light Cinema in New Brighton waiting for a film (Geoff can’t remember which one – surely it was Blade Runner 2049?), the hospice’s ‘volunteering’ commercial was aired. He applied the next day!

Previously Geoff, and son Matthew, have raised funds for blood cancer charities. Matthew actually completed the New York Marathon and there is a reason for his choice of charity. For the past 8 years Geoff has been living with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia. It is a condition where white blood cells (lymphocytes) are overproduced in bone marrow. It is serious, but if diagnosed early can be treated for many years through careful monitoring of people’s lifestyle and diet. Geoff is living well with very few  interruptions to his daily life.

He and Brenda dote on their Granddaughter, Lucia, (Matthew and his wife Faye’s daughter) and have a lot more time to spend with her since retirement. Next year they’re all looking forward to daughter Jenny’s wedding to her fiancé, John. Very soon, Geoff’s skills are going to come in handy, working with our Wellbeing Centre patients on some really interesting activities, (We’ll definitely be keeping  you posted!)

Before long, I expect we’ll be seeing our first ‘live’ robot volunteer, or maybe a De Lorean time machine or even our own hospice telescope! Wirral Hospice St John’s Observatory, has a nice ring about it.

We’re all looking forward to seeing it, and you, our Geoff.

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Owen – A Hospice Hero at the ripe old age of, 11 #abseiling #fundraising #charity #events #wirral #wirralhospice #hospicehero

owen 1We love it when supporters of Wirral Hospice St John’s take on a challenge to raise funds for us.

Over the years, many thousands have undertaken a whole host of wonderful (sometimes weird!) activities and events. They’ve completed charity walks, run marathons, endured triathlons, sat in baths of beans, swum for miles, shorn their locks, climbed mountains, jumped out of aeroplanes and much, much more. The funds they raise help us to continue to provide our specialist care services, free of charge, for the people of Wirral.

People embark on these pursuits for all sorts of reasons. It might be that they witness the services we provide for their family members or friends, at first hand. They may know people who are staff and volunteers here or, perhaps they read about the essential services we provide on information leaflets, or on social media, and they just wanted to help.

Whatever the reason, we really appreciate them ONE AND ALL.

We’re always delighted to see young people taking part for us, sometimes joining their families on walks and a host of other activities.

So, when 11 year old Owen told his mum that he wanted to abseil down a tall building to raise money for the hospice, we were fascinated to find out, why? We wanted to know what motivates a young person to choose to raise money for our charity. Like any good story, a series of life events and circumstances combined to bring young Owen to his inspiring decision.

Owen was born in March 2007. His mum, Kate, had been pregnant at the same time as her good friend and neighbour, Karen. By happy coincidence they spent time on the maternity ward together, cementing their friendship. Karen’s little girl, Sadie, was born two days before Owen.

Karen and Kate remained strong friends in the following years and young Owen and Sadie, living close by in the same road, were like brother and sister. The birth of Owen’s brother Archie, two years later, added to this ‘extended family’ dynamic.

Life went on with its everyday joys and, with the children growing up and playing well together, all was well. That is, until four years later, Sadie’s mum Karen was diagnosed with lung cancer. Huge challenges lay ahead.

Intensive specialised treatment at Clatterbridge followed, enabling periods of relief, remission and respite. The love and support of her many friends, most significantly Kate’s family at that time, enabled Karen to live as full a life as possible with Sadie.

Karen was supported here at Wirral Hospice St John’s. She experienced life affirming activities within our Wellbeing Centre (then known as Day Therapy). She was later admitted to our inpatients ward, once her condition began causing the kind of pain and discomfort our specialist treatment is designed to stabilise.

In August 2016, after five years of living with her illness, Karen died.

In the times when her mum was ill, young Sadie had spent many hours with mum’s friend Kate, her partner Derek and sons Owen and Archie. As life continued, as it has to, Sadie’s Auntie Veronica (Ronnie) took on guardianship and now Sadie is settled with her family.

Karen’s friend Kate is our Kate. She works here at the hospice as one of our lottery administrators having been a hospice volunteer before that, working with the education team, at the time of Karen’s illness. When the chance of a job in the lottery team came up she applied successfully and has been here ever since. She loves her role at the hospice and, inevitably, the work of the hospice features in many family discussions. Young Owen and, increasingly, Archie know of the activities people undertake to raise funds for us.

Owen came to the hospice one day during the school holidays with his mum (already a young ‘volunteer’ his mum had him stuffing some envelopes for the lottery team!). It was just after his school trip to The Conway Outdoor Arts and Education Centre in Anglesey (you know the kind of place: character-forming, outdoors, sailing, hiking and, particularly captivating for Owen, abseiling).

If you’ve seen our ‘Take on a Challenge display banner, sometimes on the roadway here, you may have noticed the silhouette on the side showing a person descending a steep precipice. On the way into the hospice Owen saw the banner and told Kate, “I can do that mum.”

With that small phrase, another ‘Hospice Hero’ was developing.

The ideal place for the task presented itself while the family were walking the Wirral Way near Moreton, Leasowe Lighthouse! A quick Google search confirmed that the lighthouse hosted regular abseiling events with qualified instructors and, even though just 11, Owen was ready to take on his first challenge for the hospice.

So, with fundraising plans in place and sponsorship forms drawn up, family, friends and neighbours rallied around to support Owen. Mum and dad encouraged their pals to dig deep. People were very happy to help raise and contribute funds for the hospice in memory of Karen.

The day arrived and alongside other people (all adults) Owen, safety equipment secured, climbed over the supporting rail and began his descent down 110 feet of lighthouse.

owen 2Five minutes later, after a couple of pauses to catch a breath and with mum Kate’s heart in her mouth, Owen completed his abseil challenge. Lots of whooping, cheering and hugging ensued.
Then it was time to count up the donations!

In this one challenge Owen had raised a fantastic £756 for the hospice. He’d also, demonstrated his support for Sadie, honoured the memory of Karen, made his mum, dad and younger brother swell with pride and, gained the respect of many more of his family, friends and neighbours.

Well done our Owen, everybody at Wirral Hospice St John’s is truly honoured by your efforts!

Author: Billy Howard

 

One of our #volunteers, John, tells us why the hospice is so special ! #hospiceheroes #hospicecareweek #hospicecare #wearehospicecare

20170707_094955.jpgJohn Sutcliffe is a volunteer at Wirral Hospice where I support Day Therapy patients and work as a gardener. I was married for nearly 50 years and we have three children; two sons and one daughter, and six grandchildren. All live locally – I’m chief babysitter!

I was brought up in Wallasey and worked away at sea but when I returned I met Maria, a nurse from Upton who worked at Clatterbridge. We were married in 1969. Maria worked as a nurse for 40 years and I worked for Levers and Group 4 security. Maria and I had a common interest in travel and shared many happy holidays together. My main interests now are gardening and supporting Liverpool football Club.

How long has Wirral Hospice been a part of your life?
Approximately 15 years ago Maria was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which was when I first became involved in the hospice. Whilst Maria was coming to the hospice, I was involved in the Carers group and the Patients and Carers feedback group. Since losing Maria in 2015 I have continued to support the feedback group and have attended the Bereavement Support group and now, volunteering as a gardener and supporter of patients in the Day Therapy Unit.

During Maria’s time as a patient she was fortunate to experience all the services provided – initially as an outpatient, then attending the weekly Day Therapy sessions, then support back at home via the Hospice at Home service and also as an Inpatient. Throughout this time we saw the hospice grow and change through a number of building developments which created “The Hub” café, the new Outpatients department and the multi-disciplinary / patient and family support team areas. During the building works the services we attended were relocated but this did not compromise the amazing all round care we received from the wonderful doctors, clinical team and volunteers.

Being a member of the Patient Involvement group has been a great way for me to give back to the hospice: I was consulted on processes, leaflets and services and I also carried out a Healthcare inspection with external governing bodies which was a chance to share our positive experience of hospice care.

My volunteer role with Day Therapy patients is great as I am gardening with them – this is proving to be a wonderful alternative therapy, and even better we are now producing potatoes, tomatoes, onions and more that we can then pass to the kitchen to use which is really satisfying!

What are your Hospice Highlights?
The main highlight for me has to be the hospice staff – nothing is too much effort. Throughout all the services we experienced, the staff would go above and beyond to support not just Maria but myself and all the family.

When Maria attended her weekly Day Therapy session, I was invited to stay and attend a Carers group which was specifically for patients’ partners and/or their careers. The team who ran this provided wonderful opportunity for support where, over coffee and cake you could ask questions, talk through day to day issues and share experiences of life as a career with others going through the same thing, which helped to prepare you for the journey ahead.

The bereavement support was also a highlight for me – After some initial one to one counselling I joined a bereavement support group where we met every two weeks for about two years. These people became friends for life as we still meet up now and have even been away on holiday together!

Now a big highlight for me is to work with patients in Day Therapy who I know will benefit from their time here because they are going to be made to feel well. I will never forget what one of the consultants said to me when Maria was a Day Therapy patient “You don’t come here to die, you come here for us to control your medication, control your pain and get you home”.

What does hospice care mean to you?
For me the hospice care means the personal touch, where the staff have time to listen not just to the patient, but to the partners, the children and the extended family who are just as important to them. The wonderful team of medics and nurses have the skills to support families when they really do need it.

I couldn’t put a rating on Wirral Hospice – if I did it would be a million stars! You’re made to feel like family and it starts to feel like home.

I can never repay the team at Wirral hospice for what they did but volunteering is my way of giving something back.

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