Heartbroken Linda Nolan today called on the Fylde coast to back The Gazette’s Hospice Heroes appeal – on what would have been her beloved sister Bernie’s birthday.
“Let’s do it for Bernie and Blackpool,” said Linda, whose singing and acting star sister died this summer after a brave battle with cancer.
The Gazette yesterday launched Hospice Heroes – our bid to raise the £200,000 required to fund the desperately needed refurbishment of both Trinity and Brian House hospices.
Bernie, who would have been 53 today, was given “four more months of life – and time to say goodbye” – thanks to the specialist care she received at Trinity earlier this year.
Blackpool-raised Bernie, spent three weeks in Trinity before returning to her home where she died in July.
Linda said: “We owe Trinity a huge debt of gratitude for giving us our sister back for those extra months ... we cherished and treasured every minute.
“It enabled us and others to say our goodbyes. It wasn’t gloom and doom and morbid and a place to die – but a place to live.
“We lay side by side in bed, falling asleep holding hands.
“No one can take the memories away from me and Trinity helped give me that. They made her strong enough to go home – which is what she wanted. They organised the ambulance, everything she needed with the hospice closest to Bernie. Home was where she wanted to be.”
Bispham-based Trinity is almost 30 years-old and, together with its adjoining children’s hospice Brian House, is desperately in need of modernisation.
More single rooms are needed, public areas require redesigning to make the building easier to navigate.
Lighting, new windows and redecoration are also desperately needed.
It is a major task – it will cost around £500,00 to bring the hospices up to a modern standard. Hospice bosses were given a major boost after they applied for and secured a £283,000 grant from the Department of Health to put towards the essential building work.
That leaves a shortfall of £200,000... and that is where Hospice Heroes come in.
We are looking for readers to do something heroic for our local hospices.
That could be a sponsored walk, run, cake bake, non-uniform day at school or work – anything which can help us reach our target of £200,000.
Bernie had come to Trinity during her 13-year-old daughter Erin’s half-term break for Linda’s 54th birthday.
“We all went out, she had a great time, even after collapsing on the stairs, but then it all crashed in on her later,” says Linda.
“The second time she went to hospital we were told she wouldn’t make the journey home.
“And she wouldn’t have – not at that time. The Vic is about curing people. We knew her cancer, which had spread so far, couldn’t be cured but could be treated.
“But in Trinity she got the palliative care she needed to make her stronger.
“They dealt with her pain, the cough that had been driving her mad and she became the old Bernie again, having a laugh, her favourite drink – vodka and ginger ale – her favourite food, Chinese, and surrounded by her family and friends.
“She had the most beautiful room with a door right out to the garden – and later she got a bigger room so her husband Steve and daughter Erin could stay over too.
“And we Nolans virtually moved into the day lounge. There were so many of us Bernie’s husband Steve took one look and said ‘it’s like My Big Fat Gypsy Hospice!’”
Linda, who recovered her own advanced breast cancer in 2005 only to lose her husband and “soul mate” Brian soon after, admits Trinity helped her too. “I have been to the bereavement centre for counselling previously,” she added.
“I attend Trinity’s lymphoedema clinic every six months there too.
“I’ve supported the (Trinity) Illumathon (pictured) for the past three years – walking it, I hasten to add.
“I co-hosted the Trinity Hospice annual ball and I gave a talk at their Dying Matters conference earlier this year.
“Bernie bought us these bangles from the hospice and we haven’t taken them off since.
“One for us all. They have the inscription ‘every day holds the possibility of a miracle.’
“And it does... Yes, £200,000 is a lot of money to raise but if I can help in any way I will. We all will.
“So let’s raise this money for Trinity. Let’s do it for Bernie, and for every man, woman and child who has been to Trinity, or is at Trinity, or who may have need of Trinity’s facilities in the future ... and for all their families too.
“Let’s do it for Blackpool.”