A Tribute to Mr Bill Evans: A Life, Well-Lived #lifestory #patientcare #wirralhospice #caring #nursing #thankyou #wellbeing

Bill EvansYou would have really liked our Wellbeing Centre patient, Mr Bill Evans. He was open and welcoming when you first met him. He’d flash you a smile and enquire, “Hello, I’m Bill and, may I ask, who are you?”  After I told him, “I’m a Bill too”, we had a nice series of conversations. He was very happy to tell me about his life, family and the great calm he found at Wirral Hospice St John’s.

(Bill is pictured here with Bernice, left, and Patricia from Wellbeing )

He lived in West Kirby for all his life and his great passion was sea fishing – venturing out on his motorcruiser, Seawitch, from West Kirby Sailing Club. Seawitch had all the mod cons, echo sounders, satnav, all the safety equipment for when the Irish Sea got a bit rough.

He often sailed out of the Dee Estuary with friends and his son Rob. They’d go sailing around the Great Orme at Llandudno, over to Anglesey, and, in fact, all along the North Wales coast. He was especially animated when telling me about the time he caught an 18lb Pollock. Spreading his arms, in the time-honoured fashion, “It was this big, Billy!”

Bill was proud of his heritage. Being close to the sea it’s no surprise that his great, great, Grandfather ‘Fiddler Evans’ was locally renowned for being able to single-handedly lift half a ton of anchor and chain. You see, Fiddler manned the lifeboat, stationed then at Hilbre Island. That was when the boat was powered by rowing or sailing – there were no motors in those days!

Bill’s dad, William Evans, was a keen golfer and indulged his passion all around Wirral. He was a member of the Royal Liverpool Artisans Village Golf Club, based at Meols Drive. This is a membership group which pay a reduced membership fee in return for their commitment to helping the upkeep of the course. He was good too. When William died they scattered his ashes on the 18th Fairway on the Open Championship course.

Bill Evans Army CookSo what about Bill himself? He joined the army in the late 1950’s as a regular. He was an army cook for 19 Field Ambulance, part of the Royal Army Medical Corps and was stationed in Malaya as it transitioned into Malaysia. His unit’s job, in those days, was largely preparing the local population for independence in a time before Malaysia was recognised for its massive industrial and technological development.

Bill was also capable of ‘looking after himself’. He showed me the boxing certificate he won when he was posted in Berjaya in 1965 (pictured). It proudly heralds ‘W Evans has won first place in the Berjaya Boxing (Middle Weight) Competition held in Sibu Sarawak, 1st-7th November 1965.’ He’d got the Trophy too (also pictured). What a knock-out, Bill!

 

Bill married the love of his life, Eileen, in 1991 at Birkenhead Town Hall, followed by a blessing at the picturesque St Bridget’s Church in West Kirby. They’d been together for 25 years and Bill had taken stepchildren, Lynn and Robert for his own. They shared a very special bond.

He beamed when talking about his grandchildren. Granddaughter, Charlotte, is training to be a Vet at  the Leahurst Campus on Wirral, part of Liverpool University. She’s also spent some time in India learning and advising on farming methods.

Grandson Max, 27, is doing well, working near Southampton fitting water meters. Bill was a bit concerned for him though as he tells a story about a colleague who was bitten by a False Widow spider which must have come over on a ship berthed at the docks there. (Thankfully he made a full recovery).

He radiated happiness when telling me that his other granddaughter, Shara, had blessed them all with great-granddaughter, Lola.

We talked about Bill’s illness and he was very open. He was diagnosed with Prostate and Bone Cancer in 2015. He was undergoing treatment at Clatterbridge Oncology until he was referred to Outpatients at Wirral Hospice St John’s. He is appreciative of the honest and helpful discussions he undertook with our specialist consultants in palliative medicine.

He described the hospice as “the best place I could possibly imagine, so calming and relaxing.” He attended the Wellbeing Centre on Friday’s and had previously spent a few days in the Inpatient ward to ease the pain and discomfort he was feeling after being brought back from a break in North Wales. He was admitted feeling pain, on a level Bill described as 8 out of 10, but after receiving treatment at the hospice, he marked his pain at “zero!”

WellbeingHe credited our activities co-ordinator, Penny and all the volunteers and the staff team with keeping him busy and welcome in our Wellbeing Centre. He enjoyed the hands-on craft and baking sessions and joined in (often started) the fun and banter with everybody in there. (Bill joined in creating the Christmas Choir Cakes pictured on the right).

One other thing he insisted on mentioning was that  he loved the food at the hospice (imagine this accolade, coming from a former army cook), “The scouse is my favourite, tell the kitchen team they’re absolutely fantastic”.

Bill told me “I can’t praise this place enough. It’s so peaceful, home-from-home, I just feel like I belong to another new family.”

Rest in Peace, Bill, from your extended family!

Bill passed away at Wirral Hospice St John’s on 30th January, 2019.

Author: Billy Howard

 

 

 

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Spotlight On: Penny Lee: Co-ordinating Life Affirming Activities in our Wellbeing Centre # wirralhospice #wellbeing #caring #fun #thankyou #hospicecare #hospicehero

PennyThe ancient Greeks were pioneers in many fields which still impact modern life. Some people, and the subject areas they specialised in, are universally famous. We’ve all heard of Hippocrates in medicine, Socrates in philosophy and Pythagoras in mathematics.

Wirral Hospice St John’s applies learning, practise and innovation in all of those fields: Progressive treatments and therapies for the relief of pain and discomfort in Medicine contribute to the essential work of the hospice; Philosophy is used in strategies which inform coping, counselling and caring for patients and their families; And, we also employ basic Mathematics, not least when counting up the many donations generous supporters make, which help us to provide our vital services.

One more area, for which we are indebted to the ancient Greeks is, Art! The way they found expression in art is still inspiring the various forms we see today. At the hospice we’re especially lucky to have a special modern descendant of Greece, our Wellbeing Centre creative therapies co-ordinator, Penny Lee!

Penny is Greek? Well, actually, Penny, (is there a more English sounding name?) was born and brought up in England by her German mum, Ute, and Greek dad, Costas. She has a fireman brother, also Costas, and she has a, rather lovely, birth name, Panayota Olymbios

I don’t know about you but, that makes me want to book a two week summer holiday in the Greek Islands! It definitely means we need to know more about Penny, her motivations, including her passion for art and its use as a creative therapy in the Wellbeing Centre.

“Our patients face real challenges with their various conditions and our job is to gently encourage activities which feed their spirit. It’s not about being a fantastic artist; we simply provide the materials to enable people to explore their own creativity.”

Art might involve painting or sculpting, drawing or fabric design. It could be a poem or song lyrics. What we absolutely know is, it genuinely helps the people who attend our Wellbeing Centre.

The ‘doing’ is the important thing. It is sometimes the ideal way for patients to ‘escape’, to be lost in the moment and to enjoy a period of relief. At other times people’s feelings are crystallised in their work and it can release emotions. In Wellbeing, Penny, her volunteer helpers and, of course, the clinical staff are close-by for the occasions that require a kind word or, when necessary, some more private conversations.Penny and Norma

Penny’s volunteer helpers, Norma (pictured with Penny), Mike (more of him later), Debbie and Jackie are experienced people who add invaluable support. Listening, nurturing and encouraging people, gently, are the essential characteristics needed to help with creative pastimes.

Wirral Hospice St John’s Wellbeing Centre is a place where people, with life limiting illnesses, are welcomed when they have been referred through their consultant’s, and/or GP’s and/or community nurse(s). People are still under the care of their GP’s but are assessed in our Outpatient’s (also sometimes Inpatients) department to agree a day in the week (Tuesday – Friday), over 8 weeks, when they can attend.

Penny’s inspiration for working in a caring environment stems from her mum who was a care worker in a nursing home. She worked with older people and would often take Penny who, as she reached her teenage years, began to build up a keen respect for people with various health needs. At the same time, at school, Penny was displaying a keen talent for art!

‘A Level Art’ was duly achieved and she had to make a choice, “Should I be a nurse or do art? Health or art? At 18, Penny chose art and went off to Norwich University to study Graphic Design and Illustration. Happily, for our patients, the combination of care and art is now fused in facilitating creative therapies here at the hospice.

Penny WorkAfter graduation, Penny worked at Chandos Records, a specialist company producing classical music records. As a senior graphic designer, her job involved organising photo-shoots, creating illustrations (from listening to the musical pieces) and final art direction for vinyl covers which sold all over the world. If you bought a record of Nigel Kennedy’s, the world famous violinist, in the 80’s the chances are Penny designed the cover!

Penny also experienced the caring work of hospices when a former colleague from Chandos, and a good friend, Mark, died at St Elizabeth Hospice, Ipswich, at only 39 years of age.

Eventually marriage brought Penny to Wirral and she has two boys (pictured with Penny), Daniel 21, who is studying German and Portuguese in Bristol, and Jonny 23 (fondly called ‘Mr Gadget’ by Penny) who works in Manchester for the growing digital content provider ‘Unilad’Penny and Boys

Nowadays Penny also volunteers for an organisation called Place2Be which works with schools to meet the needs of some (often vulnerable) children who don’t always thrive in the mainstream. It’s really inspiring work.

Penny GracieIn June Penny will have been at the hospice for six years. Until she worked here, and even now, Penny has been involved in voluntary work. She loves dogs and has been involved in ‘pat dogs’ for people with dementia (her own dog is Gracie, pictured on the left) . She’s been an Age UK befriender and was working at a café in Willaston when she met Wellbeing Centre volunteer, Mike Ring.

Mike introduced Penny to the hospice as a volunteer and, when a staff position became available, well, the rest is history. That’s not ancient Greek history mind, it’s modern history being made with a Greek, plus German and English, influence.

Thank you, Penny, you’re really making history!

Author: Billy Howard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norma

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

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

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

Author: Billy Howard

Spotlight On: 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.

Geoff, we’re all looking forward to seeing it, and you, very soon.

Author: Billy Howard

The beautiful game…zorb style! #football #zorbing

zorbIf you’re looking for an event that’s a bit different, active and very entertaining, then take a look at Zorbing Football!

Zorbing is becoming increasingly popular for those into their fitness – you’ll see zorbs being used in many boot camp classes and for those just looking for a bit of fun!

You can ‘harness zorb’ and speed roll down a hill at 30mph, ‘aqua zorb’ and have complete movement inside a zorb which is pumped with around 30 litres of water and of course, zorb whilst playing a glorious game of football!

Interested? Of course you are! Type ‘zorbing football’ into YouTube and we guarantee you’ll be inspired to try it! With this in mind, we’ve decided to bring the fun to you and will be hosting a Zorbing Football Tournament on Saturday 11th July at Croxteth Leisure and Wellbeing Centre, 10am-12pm for those adventurous enough to have a go!

The event begins with a safety briefing and practice session, where players will get used to the zorb suits. This means you will be running around bumping and crashing into each other. When you have the feel for your suit, the fun can truly begin!

Rather than tackle, use the more effective barge to win the ball off your opponents, sending them flying end over end in the process. When in control of the ball, if you can stop yourself howling with laughter for long enough, dribble it forward before smashing it home past the goalie, but beware, a barge could come from any direction!

The event will finish with games including Zorb Bulldog / Last Man Standing and a zorb crossbar challenge!

Whether you enter as a team with your friends or an individual, you are guaranteed to enjoy this hilarious version of the beautiful game!

Playing time: 120 minutes (players will be rotated on and off frequently to allow players to catch their breath!)

£30pp – includes full use of the suit, participation in tournament and games, team photo for each player

To book call 0151 343 0778 or email Kerry at kerryt@wirralhospice.org

If you would like to find out more about what we have planned for 2016, visit our fundraising and challenge events pages on our website.

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