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. 

The ‘Virtual’ Clatterbridge to John O’Groats Run with 15 old school pals of Calday Grange Grammar. #hospiceheroes #fundraising #running #wirralhospice #marathon #thankyou

Run - graphic -Text 1 (01)When former Calday Grange Grammar School friends Paul Parry and Dave Raven bumped into each other recently (they didn’t literally ‘bump’ as they were socially distancing of course) they had a chat about how they were staying fit during the coronavirus lock-down. (Paul is pictured above Dave from a Zoom meeting – the full picture of which is below*).

They concluded that it would be even more motivating if they had a target to achieve, maybe raise some sponsorship and wondered whether they could get a bunch of their old pals involved. They’re all in their mid-thirties now and have all stayed in touch since school.

So, after contacting their whole group via WhatsApp, and then arranging a Zoom call (all on the picture below*), they chose Wirral Hospice St John’s and Maggie’s Merseyside, both based at the Clatterbridge Health Park, to share the sponsorship monies they were hoping to raise. During the chat it emerged that a number of the chaps have family knowlege of the hospice and of the cancer support centre.

Some were willing to write a line or two about their own experiences and, with their permission, we have shared their recollections.

Dan Burns: “The hospice looked after my dad, Bob Burns, for respite at the back end of last year. They were absolutely amazing with the care and love they gave to him, and my mum. He passed away on the 14th of March, but he runs alongside me every step of this challenge. It’s so fresh for mum and I and we  would love as many people as possible to hear about it. I’m doing this in his memory and for what Wirral Hospice meant to him. x.”

Mike HellerMike Heller (Pictured left here, after a run): My dad, Steve Heller passed away at the hospice 8 years ago. I can remember that my dad really needed that special care as his illness progressed. Nothing was too much for them to do for him. I just remember how good and how nice they all were and how many volunteers they had supporting the nurses and doctors.”

Adam Simpson and Wife, Jo: “Jo’s friend Tricia was cared for at the hospice last year. It was clear to see what a caring special place St John’s Hospice is. Tricia also got so much support from Maggies Merseyside, which really helped her during her hardest times.”

Giles Pullen and Wife, Emily: “Emily’s Grandad, Bernie, spent the last few weeks of his life at Wirral Hospice St Johns, five years ago. I presumed it was a place where people just go to die when the hospital could do no more for you. It was the complete opposite. It was a cheery, happy place with lovely nurses, doctors and volunteers. He died there peacefully and was so content. That’s why it has a special place in our hearts.”

Martin Jones:My dad, Richard (they all referred to him as Dickie while he was in) went into the hospice on 8th April this year. He had just had the worst weekend health-wise. From going about his normal activities, his cancer had spread and he became bed-bound. The hospice stepped in and took control. They were fantastic. Communication throughout was great. They were clear about Dad’s illness but very sensitive to our feelings   Due to the coronavirus pandemic visiting had had to change, but they went out of their way to allow my mum, sister and I as much time as we needed with Dad. They supported our needs and gave the best possible care and relief for my dad. When he passed they were there for us explaining step-by step with thoughtful guidance. We can’t thank them enough. Every nurse was caring and fully up to date with his situation throughout the process. (Around the time my mum was also given the all clear from her bowel and liver cancer). They got to know know my parents really well and have continued support for my mum which has been great during this difficult time.”

And, right now, another runner, Trev Fisher, visits his dad, Roy,  who is with us at the hospice getting pain management treatment associated with his cancer condition. Roy is expecting to go home very soon and wanted everyone to know how proud he is of Trevor and all the lads for raising money for the hospice and Maggie’s. (Roy has been a keen athlete himself having chaired the Pensby Runners for years and having completed hundreds of runs and 13 full marathons in his time, including a sub 3 hour time!) Roy said,

Wirral Hospice St John’s has been a real boon for me. I’m so delighted that Trevor and the lads chose it as one of their charities. I also know of the great work Maggie’s does too. It’s so inspiring as I know that many events and challenges have had to be cancelled because of the current crisis, but people are still finding unique ways to support their favourite causes.

So the fifteen men are now completing a ‘virtual’ 7-day Clatterbridge to John O’Groats running challenge between them! It started on Monday 25th May and will run through until Sunday 31st May. They’re each tracking how far they can run in an hour each day, within the coronavirus guidelines, to get to the total distance of 810 kilometres. Between them they have to average 7.7 kms per day for 7 consecutive days (just under 5 miles a day each!)

Paul Parry (2)Paul Parry (pictured left here, following a run) owns a Heswall business, The Way Fitness, where he is a personal trainer and fitness instructor. His wife’s uncle, Sam Lavin, a fit and strong rugby man in his time was also cared for at Wirral Hospice St John’s for which he and their wider family wanted us to know they are eternally grateful.

Paul is himself, obviously, ‘ever ready’ for challenges but, whereas some of the friends are also members of Paul’s private gym, there are a couple who say they haven’t ‘run properly’ since school. Paul summarised the effort,

Dave and I started talking about getting the lads together for a challenge and we were thinking about maybe doing 100km between us. On the ‘lively’ Zoom call that followed this became much more ambitious and the idea of Clatterbridge to John O’Groats came to fruition. As we chatted it became clear we should raise funds for Wirral Hospice St John’s and Maggie’s as it was eye-opening the number of people who had a personal connection.

Martin Robinson. DubaiWe’re all completing our runs around various Wirral neighbourhoods, although one of the chaps, Martin Robinson (pictured right), lives in Dubai and, while we were all complaining that Monday was a searingly hot day to start the challenge, he reminded us that he was having to get up at 6am to do his hour as the temperature is hitting 38 degrees there just now.

Many pics of the sweating, and sometimes exhausted, lads are adorning social media as they complete their daily challenges and people are sending sponsorship monies to support their endeavour, hurtling them towards their £5,000 target.

There is a link at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/TheLads2 if you would like to show your support.

It really is a welcome fundraiser for Wirral Hospice St John’s (and Maggie’s) right now as many of this year’s larger participation events are now cancelled. Charity finances will inevitably take a hit but, as usual, our Wirral Community have rallied around to help us to continue to provide our specialist care and support services.

And, not least, the lads from Calday Grange Grammar School, still friends after 20 odd years. To them we say, Sirs, you are you are certainly Gentlemen and Scholars and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts….

*The full 15 below are (from l-r)

Paul Parry, Dan Burns, Stu Gosling, Mike Heller, Mark Leyland,

Dave Raven, Matty Roberts, Adam Simpson, Michael Mounsey, Giles Pullen,

Trev Fisher, Martin Jones, Martin Robinson, Matthew Kelsey, Alex Wade.

Run - graphic -Text 1

Author: Billy Howard

If you’d like to help Wirral Hospice St John’s during the coronavirus pandemic crisis, some of the ways you can are outlined at http://www.wirralhospice.org/urgentappeal 

Thank You for always thinking of us.

Paul Parry (2)Dan BurnsStu GoslingMike HellerMark Leyland

Dave RavenDave RavenMatty RobertsAdam SimpsonMichael MounseyGiles Pullen

TrabsKnees in paddling Pool (ice added)Martin Dubai 2Matthew KelseyAlex Wade

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 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

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