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)

 

Spotlight On: Niamh McEvoy, a young volunteer in our Moreton Shop building her passport to a future career #wirralhospice #charityshops #volunteering #caring #wirral #hospicehero #lifestory

Earlier in the year we brought you a story about the great Ann Dermody who has volunteered in our charity shops for over 22 years. It served to show how Ann, alongside an army of over 120 volunteers in our six shops, helps to keep things ticking over to raise those all-important funds for the compassionate care and specialist support services of Wirral Hospice St John’s.

Niamh 1Now we’ve gone to the other end of the scale and spoken with Niamh McEvoy,  just 21 years of age, who talks about how much she enjoys volunteering at our Moreton shop and the special reasons for doing so.

When you meet Niamh you’ll be struck by how gently she speaks. She smiles the whole time and you feel like you’d be well served if you came to ask a question about the merchandise at Moreton, or when you were ready to buy an item.

Our Moreton shop is one of the biggest in our portfolio (we also have shops in Heswall. West Kirby, Liscard, New Brighton and Claughton) so there are plenty of pre-loved items to stir people’s interest. From full 3-piece suites, dining room sets, sideboards and furniture, through men’s, women’s, junior and baby clothing, bric-a-brac, books, toys and much more.

Sorting and displaying stock is a job in itself which Niamh helps with. She also meets customers and operates the till. She’s learning plenty of transferrable skills for her future.Niamh 2 (2)

Niamh tells me about her connection to Wirral Hospice St John’s. Her stepdad, John, who, alongside Niamh’s mum, Lyn, brought Niamh up from very young, attended our Wellbeing Centre in 2016 after his COPD had become particularly troublesome.

Like quite a few other patients, John was a little apprehensive at first on being referred to the hospice, but soon, given strategies for controlling his breathing and getting involved in other therapies and activities looked forward to his visits one day a week.

Niamh remembers how John would help another patient, a lady who was also losing her sight, by reading to her. The sense of community, the many laughs and still knowing he was making a significant contribution was important to him. John died in 2017 and Niamh knew straightaway that she wanted to give something back to the hospice.

Being naturally shy, Niamh would have found it a bit difficult at that time to make the first move to volunteering (not nowadays however, volunteering has really boosted  her confidence) so it was a happy coincidence that John’s nephew, Stephen (pictured here with Niamh), also volunteers at our Moreton shop and helped Niamh to settle in.

Niamh 3 (2)(Stephen’s own Dad, Ronnie, and his brother Robert had also been helped through life-limiting illnesses by Wirral Hospice St John’s and, on retirement four years ago from Cadbury’s at Moreton – the old Burton’s Biscuits – he also decided he wanted to volunteer to give back to the hospice).

In school, Niamh studied at The Kingsway Academy and gained A Levels in Chemistry, Biology, Physics which led her, naturally, to doing a foundation degree in, Drama! What? Well, she wanted to do something different to improve her confidence.

Having secured her foundation degree she is in her second year of a gateway course at the school of Biomedical Science at Liverpool John Moores University. This may lead to forensics or maybe even a future in healthcare.

She’s close to her Mum, Lyn, who works for Wirral Borough Council taking children, with autism and other social communications, to school. The ‘caring’ runs deep in Niamh’s family!

At our Moreton shop she’s a popular volunteer. She loves her volunteering colleagues Fran, Barbara and, of course, Stephen. Ricky (2)She also mentions Ricky, the shop manager (pictured here holding a hospice Summer Memories daisy), as someone she’s always learning from,

“He’s very focused, gets the job done and has been really nice and helpful to me. He leads by example and when I tell him what I’d like to do he’s always encouraging with a heartfelt, ‘Go For It, Niamh!’

niamh and jordan

Niamh and boyfriend Jordan (with Niamh here), often seen with her at other hospice events, have been going out together for a year now. They enjoy lots of things but especially nice walks and have recently started running together.

“We’re thinking of doing a charity run, with sponsorship, for the hospice in 2020.”

I think I can hear Ricky in the background, “Go for it, Niamh!”

Yes please Niamh, go for it! The hospice says a sincere Thank You for all that you do.

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On Marianne Sunter, a former chemistry teacher who ‘reacts’ brilliantly when we need her precious time. #wirralhospice #volunteer #wirral #family #hospice #teaching #hospicehero

Marianne 1The phrase, ‘you can take that to the bank’, is confirmation that a valuable item, or a piece of information, is safe and secure. You can rely on it!

Wirral Hospice St John’s has a bank of volunteers who make themselves available, almost at the drop of a hat, to cover holidays and the ill health of other volunteers. They are, by definition, dependable people. Marianne Sunter is one such valiant volunteer.

She gives us her valuable time on main reception when called upon. Her ability to organise and prioritise, not surprising for a former deputy head teacher, is clear. The fact that she’s also very friendly and welcoming brings a mix of skills that are perfect for directing people to our patients and staff at Wirral Hospice St John’s.Marianne 2

Marianne was born and brought up in Wirral. She attended St Laurence’s Primary School in Birkenhead (merged into St Werburgh’s in 2010)  and then attained the qualifications which took her to the Holt Hill Convent school, the sister school of Upton Hall School FCJ (where Marianne actually spent the first five years of her teaching career).

Loving learning and challenging herself at school, she achieved her Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award  and was further inspired to choose a career in teaching after gaining her degree in Chemistry at the University of Liverpool.

In all, she spent 38 years in teaching. Her career flourished at Box Hill School in Surrey where she was for 33 years, rising to become its deputy head teacher for the latter 15 of them. Not surprisingly, “I tend to throw myself into every challenge”, Marianne also ran the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme at Box Hill.

In her role, she’s been in private audience with Prince Philip himself and has also met Princes Andrew and Edward, and also Princess Anne. She is happy to advocate and uphold the values of the school she spent so long at, international understanding, democracy, a care for the world around us, a sense of adventure, and the qualities of leadership and service. 

In 1992 Marianne met the love of her life, and future husband, Jim. Jim had already enjoyed a career working in air freight which had taken him around the world. He was, literally, a ‘high-flying’ executive!

At the time, and still maybe, it was a natural move to retire from a fast moving and successful career in one industry to takeover the management of a country pub and hotel. The Running Horses, on London Road in Surrey, is just such a place! It’s also right over the road from Box Hill School and fate brought Jim and Marianne together.

It’s fair to say that the pub wasn’t all Jim had envisaged and just two years later he was working at Box Hill, initially as a groundsman but, like Marianne, was happy to go above and beyond. (Here they are pictured together). In his 16 years at Box Hill he grew their thousands of bedding plants every year, managed several allotments, looked after all the school buses and coordinated the transport for all outside activities. He also found time to make and paint scenery for school plays and run the bars for parents’ events.Marianne and Jim

Jim developed Kidney problems at around sixty two years of age. From 2011 he was receiving dialysis at home under the care of their local NHS (and his personal ‘nurse’, Marianne). By 2015, Jim’s kidneys were failing and he was finally admitted to the Renal Unit at St Helier Hospital in Carshalton. The decision was taken to stop his dialysis and to live out his days as comfortably and happy as possible.

It was Jim’s palliative care consultant, Dr Swift, “Swift by name, swift by nature” Marianne says, who, at the right time, arranged for the transfer to St Catherine’s Hospice in Sussex.

Marianne remembers, “From the moment he arrived at the hospice he was quickly free from pain and felt very peaceful. I was struck by how attentive the hospice staff and volunteers were. Jim’s full name was William James Sunter and at hospital people would refer to him as William. From the moment we arrived, the staff  at St Catherine’s Hospice knew him, like he was known by everyone, as Jim! Just like at Wirral Hospice St John’s, people were friendly, empathetic, compassionate but, somehow, just ‘normal’, fun even… at the right time! Human, I suppose.”

Marianne and stepdaughter, Joanne, were holding hands with Jim when he died on 15th May, 2015.

Marianne had retired to be with Jim and has now re-settled in Wirral. She is a massive advocate of hospice care and takes a keen interest reading the history of the hospice movement and its ethos. She has great admiration for the work of Dame Cicely Saunders in establishing hospice care and shows me an excerpt from an account of her life (by Jennifer Worth of ‘Call the Midwife’ fame) and matches it to her own experience;

The primary objective of a hospice is to show that death does not need to be a time of suffering but a time to achieve fulfilment. It encompasses the quiet unsung lives of ordinary people. People who have lived simply in a small circle, doing their best and achieving great things, in small ways. My husband (Jim) was such a person. His life was not spectacular but he was a good man and one of the wisest people I have known. He died quietly and peacefully as he had lived with his daughter and I on either side holding his hands. This is life coming full circle.

Both Jim and Marianne were held in such high esteem at Box Hill (see page 08 at this link by clicking here, that there is now an annual award in their name and Jim’s memory, ‘The Sunter Award.’ This goes to the student who has gone above and beyond the normal course of study every year. (Marianne is pictured here presenting the first award to a young man, Josh Barnett, who she says is always a great ambassador for the school).Marianne 3

Nowadays Marianne is in close touch with stepdaughter Joanne, married to Mark, with granddaughters Georgina 21 and Phoebe 16. They experienced their own sadness in losing a little boy Owen after 5 days who is still remembered by all the family. There’s also stepson, Mike, married to Emma with five-year-old, Leo.

Marianne has two brothers. Eldest, Gerry, who lives in Prenton, is married to Barbara. Their son, Matthew has Marianne’s great-niece, Alice and great nephew, Sam. Gerry and Barbara’s daughter, Claire, lives in Wirral with husband Dave and have more great-nephews for Marianne, Adam 10 and Luke 6.

Her other brother Philip, married to Helen, lives in New Zealand and their daughter Alexandra is married and lives in Missouri.

She also has an Aunt, Catherine known as Carrie, who will receive a telegram from The Queen for her 100th birthday in July this year.

As well as making her contribution to the hospice, Marianne adds her considerable experience in education as the chair of governors of St Oswald’s Primary School in Mollington, Chester.

To relax, Marianne is part of a quiz team called The Soapsuds (they’re based at Port Sunlight’s Lever Club). They are in Division One of the Wirral Quiz League and regularly compete in cup matches organised by the larger Merseyside Quiz Leagues.

What I had to find out from somebody else (not mentioning anyone, but Carole Snow is our volunteer services manager!) is that Marianne also took part in the ITV quiz show, The Chase, hosted by Bradley Walsh. For aficionados, she and another lady, Mia, reached the last two to face The Vixen in the final chase. See the action on You Tube by clicking here.

So, with piles of energy, commitment, knowledge and enthusiasm we’re looking forward to seeing Marianne here at the hospice for a lot of years ahead. In fact, I think we can safely say, where Marianne is concerned, you can take that to the bank!

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: Liz Munro a fundraising volunteer, ‘par excellence’ #hospicehero #wirralhospice #caring #fundraising #fun # volunteer #thankyou

liz

Wirral Hospice St John’s fundraising office is a hive of activity. There are constant phone-calls and a steady flow of people popping in to make donations, to join various events, sign up for the hospice lottery and drop off prizes (including contributions to our famous in-patients ward’s drinks trolley!) Very often, people from other teams and/or hospice trustees and ambassadors meet in fundraising to share ideas and news from around the place.

Our fundraisers are busy bees. They’re dedicated, driven and conscientious, but, they’ll all tell you, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as efficient without the help of a supportive and highly motivated group of volunteers, each bringing their unique personality, skill and experience to the team.

Today we focus on ‘one of the quiet ones’ (or so you would think) the invaluable and gently effective, Liz Munro.

Liz doesn’t make any fuss in the office. She’s there every Tuesday from 10am to 4pm, handling calls politely while, often simultaneously, packing envelopes, collating information, accepting card payments and sorting through all kinds of fundraising paraphernalia.

When she finds a minute she’ll also get all the teas and coffees in! This unassuming lady is an absolute diamond, the kind of person who, if you had a need she’d help you as much as she could.

liz 1

When I ask her to tell us how she got involved with the hospice and some of her ‘real life’, she’s typically humble: “I’ll tell you everything about me in about 5 minutes and you’ll have nothing to use.” I think she genuinely means it, but there’s plenty worth sharing.

Born and raised in Wirral, Liz attended Upton Hall FCJ before leaving for Durham University where she graduated in PE. Her first job was teaching PE at Helsby Grammar School before moving to Crewe Grammar where she spent a further 11 years. Liz is definitely a sports enthusiast – more about that later!

Her career continued in learning with the education advisory service and, based in nearby Ellesmere Port, Liz became an ‘Education Visitor’. This made learning accessible to people of all ages who might not have necessarily thrived in mainstream education. Liz’s commitment to community and public service has been a mainstay of her life.

Liz finally retired in 2004 when the primary school she was working at, Stanlaw Abbey, merged with another to become Oaks Primary School.

By that time she had already been volunteering at Wirral Hospice St John’s for 3 years. You see, her husband and the love of her life, Keith, had passed away at the hospice in 2001.

Liz tells me a little bit more about Keith. He was from Tain in Scotland (where they make the famous Glenmorangie Whisky). In the RAF he developed a love of languages and went on to study German and Russian at Edinburgh University. He was lecturing in Russian at the old Liverpool Polytechnic (now Liverpool John Moores University) when they met.

Liz positively beams when talking about her children and grandchildren. Keith and Liz were married in 1978 and Keith brought two children, Andrew and Jamie, to the relationship. Liz describes them, now in their 50’s, as just delightful! They have given Liz four of her, soon to be six, grandchildren. Soon to be?  Yes, Liz and Keith also have another daughter, Annie, who is mum of grandaughter, Ella, and now grandchild number six is due in March. Wonderful!

When speaking about Keith’s time in the hospice, he’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, Liz remembers, “He was made to feel so comfortable. The staff and volunteers showed great courtesy, patience and were so attentive to his needs. Their kindness was priceless.”

She recalls a nice story when Keith wanted some peaches for his dessert, “Del Monté, mind” he requested. Naturally, the Man from Del Monté said, YES!

Keith died here in July 2001 at the age of 64.

Later that year, Liz began to volunteer for the hospice. Her first campaign contribution was for Light Up a Life in 2001. Liz would take home the hundreds of remembrance Christmas cards to be sorted and packed for posting to all the people who had made their invaluable donations.

In the next year Liz, with family, friends and neighbours hosted a ‘Titanic’ themed event to raise funds for the hospice. Guests were asked to dress for ‘steerage’ or ‘first class’. A gangplank was built up to the front of the house, adorned with lifebelts, a sailboat positioned next to an iceberg (a sheet draped over Annie’s old swing) in the garden.  A string quartet, featuring Annie, played until fireworks signified the ship going down at midnight. “People still talk about the day, it was Keith’s wish to hold it and we managed to raise a nice sum for the hospice.”

liz 7

Sporty Liz missed her games of tennis with Keith and, late in 2002, a friend encouraged her to have a go at golf. After just a few lessons she was hooked, “like some of my shots”, Liz laughs. Soon afterwards she joined, what was then, Wirral Ladies Golf Club in Oxton.

It wouldn’t be long before Liz became embroiled in life at the golf club. So much so that, by 2011, she was named the club’s Captain . What an honour! However, Liz broke many conventions in 2012 by being chosen for a further year. Historically, Liz was the very last ‘female only’ Captain of the golf club as, to comply with equality law, the club has had both a female and male captain since 2012.

Liz chose Wirral Hospice St John’s as her club’s charity of the year in both years as captain. The members insisting that she would have no problem gaining their support, “Wirral Hospice touches everyone here”, they told her. Again, very welcome funds were raised towards helping the hospice maintain our specialist palliative care and support services.

In 2018, Liz and her golf buddy, Janet Mills, made a personal donation to have the hospice featured on a sign on the 6th hole of their newly renamed Wirral Golf Club. 

Thank You, again and again and again. Liz, you are a Wirral Hospice St John’s volunteer, ‘par excellence.’liz 2

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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