Supporting carers in these exceptional times. Carers Week is 8th-14th June #carers #caring #family #wirralhospice #patientcare #makingcaringvisible #thankyou

‘Carers’ are the unpaid army of family and friends who spend many hours caring for and supporting people with physical and mental illness and disability, above and beyond the services that statutory, private and/or charitable health & social care organisations provide.

The week of 8th-14th June is national Carers Week, with a rallying call of ‘Making Caring Visible’, it’s designed to raise awareness of the estimated 6.5 million people who have unpaid caring responsibilities across the UK.

HeatherWirral Hospice St John’s spiritual care coordinator, Heather MacLeod (a little more about her later), reminded me of these lyrics, famously sung by Celine Dion*, to capture all we contemplate during national Carers Week.

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you love me

Perfect!

Carers will often class themselves as, just, a wife, husband, partner, son, daughter, grandparent or other family member or friend. Their care comes from a sense of duty and a deep well of love.

We see this, close up, every single day at Wirral Hospice St John’s.

Supporting and caring for people with life limiting illnesses is at the heart of everything we do and, in order to really know our patients, to extend the care and support we provide for them, we also offer services designed to help their carers, practically, spiritually and emotionally.

In normal times we’ll see and work with carers in all of our settings, Inpatients, Outpatients, Wellbeing Centre (day services) and Hospice at Home.

Physio Room (1)The current coronavirus crisis, calling on all of us to limit direct contact and minimise all but essential travel, has inevitably altered our ways of reaching out to carers.

Early on in the pandemic even visiting in our Inpatients ward was severely restricted. We managed ways to allow a small number of closest relatives to visit loved ones by supplying face masks and other personal protective equipment and reinforcing hand washing and safety recommendations.

For the wider family we’ve been providing patients with electronic equipment, such as IPads, if they don’t have their own, so that they can see each other and chat.

james george conference poster

Although some of the patient and family services team are working from home (hello Suzanne and Co) they are set up to continue working with patients and their carers. Where we can’t meet with carers, which is in most services just now, we’re staying in touch through telephone calls and other electronic communications.

On Friday of Carers Week we brought an afternoon tea for the visitors to our inpatients to remind them how we appreciate their massive contribution to the wellbeing of their loved ones. Scones with jam and cream and a nice drink… mmmmm!

Hospice Reception (1)Enquiries about welfare benefits and signposting to emotional and psychological support, including liaison with other local agencies, while agreeing plans of action are still being handled by our professional social workers, James and Ann-Marie.

Emily Fozard. Counsellor

Bereavement counselling, facilitated by the most accomplished listener, Stella, also continues in what are especially psychologically distressing circumstances for families. (A mention here for our other counsellor, Emily, (pictured left) who is on maternity leave with all of our best wishes).

Occupational therapists, physiotherapists and exercise co-ordinators, Sarah, Miriam, Elizabeth and Tracy (hello to Katy also on maternity leave) continue to work with patients and source instruction videos for those at home with their families and other carers.

Aroma Therapy (5)We’ve had to suspend our aromatherapy service, provided in normal times by the most soothing and empathetic practitioner, Lindsey, because of the necessary close proximity of delivery. We look forward to restoring the service as soon as we can.

And, of course, the wonderful Heather MacLeod, (our spiritual care coordinator,read a little bit more about Heather here), is available to provide her heartfelt comfort and advice to people who are sometimes struggling to find meaning or peace in what are really the most challenging time of their lives.

To all those families and other carers of our patients, your loved ones, please know Wirral Hospice St John’s is here for you.

Hospice Nurses (1)

Author: Billy Howard

*Words to ‘Because you loved me’ written by Diane Warren © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management 

All photos taken pre-COVID social distancing regulations.

 

 

Spotlight On: Colin Middlebrough – a volunteer we can all count on! #hospicehero #volunteer #wirralhospice #wirral #fundraising

ColinIf you could choose anyone to count out all the coins (and often notes) that are donated to Wirral Hospice St John’s via collection boxes distributed all around Wirral, in shops, bars, hairdressers, chemists and a host of other businesses, as well as at bag-packing and other events, you would do well if you could find a former bank auditor!

Happily, we have that very man. His name is Colin Middlebrough.

He’s been volunteering here for 7 years now and every Wednesday, with a cheery ‘”Good Morning”, he’ll greet people in finance, fundraising and other volunteers around the place, with a ready quip or funny anecdote, before bunkering down in a quiet room to start counting.

In the week of his 80th birthday – 80? No Way! – Colin shared some of his life story with us.Colin 80]

The legend is that, in 1940, Fred and Bessie Middlebrough welcomed baby Colin into the world during an air raid over Liverpool. Born at Mill Road Maternity Hospital (where there was a tragic bombing in 1941), he spent his formative years in Armley Road, off Priory Road in Anfield, not far from the home of his beloved reds, Liverpool FC.

By age 15 Colin was nurturing his lifelong talent, playing the drums! He’d be bashing the skins and cymbals in the terraced house he was brought up in and he chuckles when he recalls, “I think the old lady next door was deaf so it never bothered her, although I think I may have driven the other neighbours mad. They used to throw bricks through the window…… so they could hear me better!”

His 1958 skiffle group, The All Blacks (they were admirers of the New Zealand rugby team), were regulars at the original Cavern Club, winning a competition to be a support act at The Liverpool Empire Theatre for a week.

Colin subsequently worked on the same bill and met many famous artists and groups, The Beatles, Rory Storm, Cliff Richard, Jim Dale of ‘Carry On’ film fame, Ike and Tina Turner’s Ikettes, Queen, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Merseybeats and many more.

(You could say Colin is our MBE – Mersey Beat Expert!)Colin KC5

Here’s Colin pictured with The Kansas City Five (they were six actually) in Liverpool in 1961. Colin is 3rd from the left. Just behind him is Tommy Hughes (we told his wife, Angela’s, story here)  Bruce McCaskill (in the photo 2nd from right) was Eric Clapton’s road manager and also managed Scottish R&B combo the Average White Band. 

The gigging was going well but by 1969 he was also looking for something steady. He joined Midland Bank (now HSBC) as a cashier in the days when it was compulsory dark suits, ties and a white shirt. He continued to gig with his covers band, The Jaywalkers, while working his way up at the bank to become a Senior Auditor.

How he also found time for refereeing amateur football matches is a wonder and Colin tells a great story of the time he was to referee the Cup Final between Guinness Exports and Littlewood’s Stores in the Liverpool Business Houses Football League in the 1960’s. As representatives of the opposing teams approached him separately before the game, it is only speculation what he could have earned in Guinness, or a year’s worth of new outfits. Of course, Colin refereed with the ultimate integrity.

As life went there was also time for volunteering. He helped, as treasurer between 1989 and 1994, to establish the Merseyside entertainers’ charity, The Merseycats, (find Colin in the middle of Row 19 at this link) which organises events to raise funds for children’s charities in the region.

Through entertainment he became involved with the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundationand recalls a gig at The Liverpool Empire in the early 90’s in aid of the Roy Castle charity which led to him meeting the late great famous actor, Sir John Mills.

Colin got chatting to Sir John at the after-show get together at the Adelphi Hotel (as you do!). After Lady Mills retired for the evening Sir John asked Colin if he’d like to take a nightcap with him. Assuming there would be a call to the waiter, Colin was surprised, and delighted, when Sir John undid the head of his walking cane to allow him to pour out a ‘tipple’ of brandy, which he kept in the shaft of his cane! Class!

So, seven years ago, Colin remembers meeting our volunteer services manager, Carole, at a function and the subject of counting all the pennies came up. He’s been here ever since  and has counted tens of thousands of pounds for Wirral Hospice St John’s.

Colin MarioHe’s also been involved in loads of fundraising himself and last year, with a group of his good friends from The Wheatsheaf pub in Raby Mere, he led a ‘Movemberesque’ effort which raised around £2,000 for the hospice. The story made the Wirral Globe and, good sport that he is, he also posed with a spoof moustache in the photograph here.

Grandad Colin has three grandsons, Fionn Padraig, who lives in Ireland, and who Skype’s Colin regularly, and Logan and Aaron who live closer to home, in Wirral.

Colin is literally our man for all seasons and we’re delighted to have him on the team.

Happy 80th, Sir, and many, many happy returns!

Author: Billy Howard

Light Up a Life 2019. Tracie’s family to switch on Wirral Hospice St John’s lights for Light up a Life in memory of husband, dad and grandad, Allan #lightupalife #patientcare #wirralhospice #thankyou

Light up a Life has been raising much needed funds for Wirral Hospice St John’s ever since the first service in 1996. It’s a really special time of year which brings together our Wirral community to remember their loved ones. This year the hospice gardens will be lit with 10,000 beautiful lights on Sunday 8th December.

Allan with FamilyThe lights will be switched on by Tracie Powell in memory of her husband Allan. Tracie will switch the lights on with her daughter, Kerry, and grandchildren, Morgan, 17, and Jeyda, 10. (Pictured is Tracie, Allan, daughter Kerry,  Morgan, Kerry’s husband, Tom and young Jeyda at a family wedding).

Allan had been feeling ill for a while before he was taken to hospital in February 2017 after collapsing with what turned out to be a perforated bowel. A little time later the family were given the shattering news that Allan had bowel cancer and it had progressed to stage 4. He was determined to be around for as long as possible and underwent chemotherapy over several months to make the most of his time with the family.

They all describe Allan as a fighter and, often when seriously ill, he would rally and be back to feeling as well as could be, enjoying quality time watching movies with Morgan and playing games with Jeyda.

Allan’s first referral to Wirral Hospice St John’s was in April 2018 and he was admitted for three weeks. Once he was made more comfortable he was able to return home to be with Tracie and the family. He also attended the hospice Wellbeing Centre for a few sessions which gave Tracie a much needed break while Allan was able to spend time with other patients enjoying the camaraderie and activities. Allan was an avid reader and was also able to spend quiet moments reading whilst at the hospice.

In July 2018 Allan was admitted onto our Inpatient Unit again. He received the specialist care and support which would give Tracie, Kerry and the grandchildren some peace of mind and precious time together. They enjoyed picnics in the sunshine in the hospice garden and talked about family holidays. Their Yorkshire terrier, Alfie, visited the Hospice too and enjoyed a cuddle from Allan.  Sadly, Allan died on 29th July, 2018 and is dearly missed by his loving family.Allan with Alfie

Tracie has received bereavement support from the hospice and has made new friends through the bereavement group. She has also joined the hospice as a volunteer.

On being approached to switch on the lights Tracie was delighted to accept, she said;

“The hospice was magnificent with, and for, Allan. The help I have personally received since has been wonderful. We all feel honoured to be able to switch on the lights, as we know it means so much for many families living in, and with family ties to, Wirral. Allan, the family and I had supported Light up a Life previously, remembering other loved ones and now we can play a part, in memory of Allan, to help people with their own special memories.”

Allan with Kerry, Jeyda and Morgan

The carol service, which is free to attend will be held in the hospice gardens on Sunday 8th December at 5.30pm. People start to gather from around 4pm to remember their loved ones.  For each light that is sponsored a loved one’s name is included in the hospice books of honour and people receive a Light up a Life card in their memory.  

The books are on display in the hospice from 4pm on 8th December and will remain on display throughout the Christmas period.

For a suggested minimum donation of £5 per light you can sponsor a Light in memory of a loved one. Light up a Life keepsake tree decorations are also available for a donation from £5.00 (including postage).  To donate to the campaign please call 0151 343 0778 or visit www.wirralhospice.org/light-up-a-life to make a donation online.

We also invite businesses to sponsor a light from £50.00. All businesses are included in the event programme and in the books of honour.

Julia Evans, Fundraising Manager said, “We’re so grateful to Tracie, Kerry, Morgan and Jeyda for agreeing to share their story and for switching on our hospice lights. Each light represents someone special who is loved and remembered whether people have a connection to the hospice or not. I would like to thank everyone who has supported Light up a Life over the past 23 years. Your support has helped us to care for our patients and their loved ones.”

Lights - Copy

Spotlight On: Mr Richard Hughes, a patient in our Wellbeing Centre #wirralhospice #wellbeing #inspiration #therapy #patientcare #nursing #wirral #hospicehero #thankyou

Richard HughesRichard Hughes loves the atmosphere in the Wellbeing Centre at Wirral Hospice St John’s. He’s well up for a laugh and a joke. He’s got loads of great stories, which he’s more than happy to share with us.

He has the most infectious chuckle too, which makes it a real pleasure, as well as a privilege, to spend some time with him finding out about his ‘real life.’

He was born in 1940 in Paignton, Devon. His dad, Frank, was a waiter on, what is now fondly called, The English Riviera. Sadly, Richard’s mum died when he was only 15 months old. When his dad met and married a new lady, “a wonderful woman who brought me up, Marguerite”, he had no real recollection of his birth Mum, Eva.

In later life, Richard and his family have traced Eva’s resting place to the picturesque village of Collaton St Mary, in South Devon. They’ve had a memorial plaque sited there in her honour and revisit the spot as often as possible.

Richard spent most of his childhood growing up in Liverpool. (His dad had moved to work for Napier’s, later English Electric (now BAE), which manufactured aeroplane engines and motor cars but also made ammunition for WWII). Richard’s a keen sportsman loving football, cricket and also, notably, basketball. In 1954, Richard was in the Prince Rupert school team which won the All Liverpool school’s championship.

Richard met his wife, Pamela, by a massive coincidence, in Torquay, near, you guessed itPaignton in Devon! Richard was on a holiday with his cousin revisiting the area where he was born and Pamela was living with her family in this most beautiful part of England.

Richard and PamelaThey were soon courting and married in 1966, at St John the Baptist Church in Tuebrook, Liverpool. Now, more than fifty-two years later, Richard simply says of Pamela, “I just love her to bits”. (Here’s Richard and Pamela pictured on the right).

They’ve got three daughters, Maria, Julie and Jennifer, and seven wonderful grandchildren, “The Magnificent Seven,” Richard warmly exclaims.

In his early career Richard, who left school at 15, worked as a cocktail bar tender at the old Strand Hotel in Liverpool. He tells a story about the time he prepared the punch for a very wealthy Liverpool family’s wedding. Mixing a cocktail of red wine, white wine, gin, other spirits and lots of fruit juice. The punch was literally flowing! So much so that he was asked by the family for his recipe. Richard laughs, “Blowed if I could remember what I put in it! If they’re still using the recipe I gave them, it definitely isn’t the one I used!”

The growing family moved out to North Wales, first to Queensferry and then onto Colwyn Bay  (it had been recommended that they move nearer to the sea for middle daughter, Julie, who had severe asthma). They spent 30 happy, very busy, years there. The house in Colwyn Bay had eight bedrooms and, for six of those years, they ran a popular B&B. It must have been brilliant as Richard tells me of the Irish people who came to stay for one night and ended up staying for 3 weeks!

Richard would prepare breakfast, then go to work in the local supermarket, back to serve dinner and then off to work in the evenings in a local pub. Now, that’s a full schedule!!!

They all became entwined in life in North Wales. Richard is proud to have been invited, with Pamela, to the 25th anniversary of the investiture of Prince Charles, as Prince of Wales, in Caernarvon in 1994.

A back problem, leading to spinal fusion for Richard, saw a change in direction, workwise, for the family. Pamela went to teach at Llandrillo College and Richard returned to college to study! After achieving his British National Diploma (BND) in public services. He joined the North Wales police service as a civilian officer. He worked in traffic and then in the crime statistics department. As a steward in NALGO (now UNISON) he endeavoured to improve the lives of all the support staff.

Richard loved the camaraderie of the workplace. Organising various trips, with theatre visits, days out to other parts of Wales, stately homes in England, London excursions and even a vacation in New York. All in all, another twenty three happy years.

Richard H 5Richard and Pamela enjoyed rambling. (Richard is captured here in his full walking accoutrements). There are some beautiful places in North Wales, and around Wirral, where such passion for striding out can be indulged. It was while in the North Wales police that Richard organised a walk to celebrate the millennium. People from all the police forces in the UK were invited to take part and eventually, 275 hardy souls set off on the, circa, 25 miles from Clwyd Gate, near Ruthin, to the coastal town of Prestatyn.

It’s more than a challenging distance and ‘undulating’ to say the least. There were check points all along the way for food (tons of scones and Bara Brith), loads of crisps, first aid posts (with blisters at a premium) and gallons of water. Richard giggles when he recalls the phone call he received on the Monday following this first walk, “which idiot organised that?” and then, after a short pause, Richard answered “I did, and we’ll be doing it all again, every other year!”

He gives great credit to Pamela for all the organisation and support. “She’s the greatest administrator, EVER!” He says proudly.

With the first one under their belt subsequent years became more popular, with the £10 entry fee going to the British Red Cross. Other people would also raise money for their own charities. Rock and Roll nights added to the fun, following the walk, which became, ‘The Walk you’ve been waiting for, from Mountain to the Sea’.

After moving to Irby in Wirral in 2006, Richard and Pamela continued with their love of walking. He became Walks Secretary of the Heswall Midweek Ramblers and they’ve completed many charity walks, including Hadrian’s Wall and a Metropolitan Police organised event in Windsor Great Park.

Richard and Lesley

Richard is open about his illness. He’s been living with prostate cancer and has received various hospice services. He’s spent time in Inpatients for pain relief. He’s laughing as he says, “it was the best B&B and hotel I’ve ever stayed in, well, after mine and Pam’s in North Wales that is!”

His weekly visit to the Wellbeing Centre sees him enjoying, often instigating, the banter while taking part in all the other activities he likes. (Richard’s pictured on the right here with our Wellbeing nurse, Lesley.) From jigsaws, other pastimes, group and individual discussions, quizzes and ‘play your cards right’, to physio and other helpful strategies and therapies to help with managing his condition.

Outside of the hospice he loves visiting his “favourite city”, Liverpool. Trips to the Walker Art Gallery and the Museum of Liverpool Life, (where son in law, Simon, helped install the IT systems) are especially enjoyable.

Richard’s feeling for the hospice staff and volunteers goes beyond admiration, he has a genuine fondness for them. He looks forward to his weekly visit to the Wellbeing Centre, “They’re all, simply, brilliant”, he says. When I check with all those who see him every Tuesday, I can assure Richard that they all say… the feeling is mutual!

It really is, Richard, it really is!

Clwyd GateView from Clwyd Gate (Thanks to Sue Warwick for photo)

Author: Billy Howard

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

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