MOST people who grew up in Blackpool will have seen the inside of Victoria Hospital’s Children’s Wards at some stage in their lives. From having plaster casts fitted on broken arms and legs, cuts neatly stitched, and tonsils and appendix removed, being a patient for the first time is often a rite of passage.
Memories of the distinctive hospital food, the sight of brightly patterned curtains and the midnight whispers to the patient in the next bed are all too familiar.
For visitors too, generations of families have made their way up the stairs to Berry Ward, clutching helium Get Well Soon balloons and bottles of Lucozade.
But being a child patient in Blackpool is about to change dramatically, thanks to a £2m legacy left by two farmer brothers.
The money means the stuffy Victorian wards will soon close their doors and an exciting new chapter in the hospital’s long history will begin.
Three new state- of-the-art wards, an adolescent unit, a children’s ward and a high-dependency area will be kitted out in the newly-built Women and Children’s Unit.
Work could start as soon as next month, so the wards may be fully functional by Christmas.
And news of the cash boost was music to the ears of dedicated staff.
Isabel Spencer, manager of Berry Ward, said: “I have worked here for 21 years, and it is almost exactly the same today as it was when I was started.
“We have had new cots, curtains and coats of paint over the years, but nothing has really changed.
“It is wonderful news about the new unit, it will make a massive difference, not just for children and their families, but for the staff too.
“This ward has served its purpose well, but it is dated now, it is very small and has no natural light.
“We can’t wait to treat our patients in a bright and airy, spacious new unit, where we are all based on one level instead of running up and down stairs.
“It is such an exciting time.”
Parents were also delighted to hear the news. Janine Wincott, 40, from North Shore, was in Berry Ward with son James, four, who was having his appendix out.
She said: “I’m so pleased parents are going to benefit from new facilities.
“You don’t want to leave your children for very long when they are in hospital, so having everything in one place will be much better.
“James has been fine while he’s been in hospital, he’s really liked the nurses. The donation is great.”
Sarah Galazka, 29, from Blackpool, has spent time in hospital with her two-year-old daughter Heidi, who has kidney problems.
She said: “The staff here on Berry Ward are great but the ward itself is a bit outdated.
“Being in hospital is not nice but having new facilities makes a big difference to the experience you have. It’s nice to hear local people have decided to help the hospital and local families.”
Outpatient facilities for children have already moved to the new unit and boast bright and airy facilities geared towards making children feel at ease. From the pirate ship reception and soft play area, to the sensory room and child-friendly colours, coming to hospital is a whole new experience.
And some children can’t wait to get into the waiting area, according to mum Emily Davies from Cleveleys.
Her six-year-old son Ethan was born a tip-toe walker, so has been in and out of hospital for years.
She said: “This area is fantastic and has made a massive difference to how Ethan feels about coming to hospital. There is so much to distract them while they wait, he loves the play equipment. It doesn’t feel like a hospital, it is a much happier place.”
The cash for the new unit was given in a legacy by two brothers from Carleton, who left a staggering £4m to charity in their wills.
But creature comforts were the last thing on their minds in the way they lived their lives.
The reclusive pair were former dairy farmers, and their Poulton Road farm had no central heating, or even an indoor toilet.
Although spending money on themselves was rare, they didn’t hesitate in handing over their family fortune for the good of local families for generations to come.
Family friend Andrew Bury said: “Frank and Jim made identical wills, and only spoke to me about what they were going to do with their cash a few years ago.
“They were dedicated to each other and wanted to make sure the other was provided for if one died.
“I had heard them speak about giving it to children’s charities and am delighted their hard-earned money is going this way.
“It is nice to think their legacy will make such a difference in the place where they lived and died.”