Appeal to Gazette readers to help provide every hospital patient with a present on Christmas day
Today The Gazette launches an appeal to brighten up the festive season for those who are in hospital at Christmas.
It is supposed to be the happiest time of the year. A time for family and a time for giving. But for hundreds of unfortunate people along the Fylde coast, Christmas won’t be any of that.
As the winter conditions become increasingly harsh, the likelihood of people being admitted to hospital grows each day with hundreds of families having relatives in hospital on Christmas Day.
For an unfortunate few of those admitted to hospital during that period, they might not have any family to share Christmas with, have anyone to give presents to or have anybody to receive presents from.
That’s where you can help - by joining in our Give a Gift Appeal.
The aim of this appeal is for every single patient, in Blackpool Victoria and Clifton Hospital, to receive a present on Christmas Day.
It’s natural to just think of children when it comes to this appeal. The thought of a child being in hospital during what’s supposed to be one of the happiest times of the year is obviously an upsetting one, but the truth is that the majority of patients in hospital, during winter are over the age of 50.
In fact, of the 682 patients who woke up on hospital last Christmas, 601 were aged above 51 and just 29 were aged 21 or under.
Smyths Toys has kindly offered to donate some toys for the younger patients in hospital, therefore the main focus of this appeal is to try and put a smile on the faces of those older patients in hospital, making sure they’re not forgotten about.
If the hospital receives too many of a certain present, they won’t go to waste and they’ll either be raffled off or saved for future special occasions such as Eid and Easter.
To make a difference, all you need to do is pick up an extra present while doing your Christmas shopping, bring it unwrapped to the hospital of your choice, be that Blackpool Vic or Clifton Hospital and the hardworking staff there will do the rest.
Ann Hedley, head of fund-raising at Blue Skies, the hospitals’ charity, said: “Christmas is a very exciting time of year; one which some people spend months planning, whether it’s having the family over for a festive feast, organising travel to see loved ones or making sure everyone you love from close friends to distant relatives receive a special gift.
“But if you’re in hospital, either as an emergency patient or for a planned procedure, you can’t be with your family around the tree on Christmas morning, swapping gifts and message of festive cheer.
“Your family may be with you during visiting hours, but to wake up in a hospital bed is not among most people’s plans for the big day.
“Here at Blue Skies we want to help make a difference to those people waking up in hospital on December 25, whether that’s at Blackpool Victoria Hospital or at Clifton Hospital in St Annes. That’s why we’re asking the public to back the Give a Gift Appeal and buy one extra gift as they carry out their Christmas shopping for a hospital patient.
“It’s important that people remember it isn’t only children who like a gift at Christmas, and in fact last year we had more than 600 inpatients in our hospitals who were aged over 50.
“We really need the people of Blackpool and beyond to back us in this campaign so we can truly make a difference at Christmas.
“Please help us to put a smile on someone’s face as they wake up on Christmas morning.”
‘Christmas is such a difficult time’
Patient - Michael Barrie Elwell, 78, of Regent Road, Blackpool
“I’ve been in hospital the best part of three years. I originally went in for a pre-op and ended up having a triple heart bypass.
“Christmas is such a difficult time, I haven’t had a proper one in three years.
“Christmas is all down to the kids. I have a grandson, William, he’s 11.
“The big thing about Christmas is everyone does it differently. It’s very personal. My family are from Wolverhampton and they go down to Wolverhampton races every Boxing Day.
“Christmas is not just one day, I know a family and their Christmas starts on the 23rd and finishes on the 4th of January!
“I feel like some people could give more to Christmas. Good luck to you.”
Why a present is so important especially to elderly patients
• Ward manager - Sabila Johnson
“On Christmas, I think it’s so important that they get a present because we have a lot of elderly patients and sometimes somebody won’t even get time to see them.
“Whereas at hospital, they get up in the morning and someone will dress up as Father Christmas and somebody will go along with the trolley and deliver the present and make a fuss. They’ll get their Christmas breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’ll be decorations everywhere and it’s a day to remember.
“It’s an anxious time. We have open visiting times in these wards, which is on trial but I think that’s a good thing because it gives families a chance to visit them but I think not giving the patients something for Christmas must be bad.
“Any time being in hospital, it’s like your life’s stopped. We have a lot of deaths at Christmas but if someone’s really ill we still do the same thing for them at Christmas. It helps the family know that we’re in there together on the day. The nurses get very cheerful in the morning, with tinsel in their hair.
“The patient Christmas dinner comes with a cracker, they get their mince pie and a slice of cake. The canteen does Christmas dinner for the staff as well. The team downstairs do some singing as well in the morning. “Lots of elderly patients don’t know if they’ll see next Christmas or not so we make Christmas come to them. We get to know them and as much as we can, if there’s an elderly visitor, we give them food.”
• Matron - Fiona Verenakis said:
“Some patients get upset when they have to go home. Some of them don’t have anyone to go home to. Here they get company, they get a present, people are singing carols around them and they love it. Not just the elderly, we have lots of people in their 30s and 40s who are on their own, without family, if they’re sitting in their flat on their own and might not see anyone for three or four days, they get company, warm, high spirits and it’s nice.”
A gift would make it more ‘a home from home’
Sandra Brookfield, 53, of Cornwall Avenue, Blackpool, daughter to Kenneth McGough, 90, of North Shore
“I would think he would feel included in what was going on here. The staff here are lovely and I’m sure that would continue on Christmas Day. I suppose it would just add to the continuance of what it would be like at home. He (her dad) would be getting loads of presents at home and he has lots of people dancing around him. His grandchildren would be round, me and my two sisters, he’d be holding court. It would make it more of a home from home.
“I think it’s a good idea. I’m a civil servant and we’re doing something similar for children in hospital. You get buy one get one free on a lot of things or you can use your points. I was going to use my Sainsburys points to buy a toy. Or the pound shop, you could easily get a nice little collection for a couple of quid.”
How to get involved
It’s really as easy as picking up one extra present when you’re out doing your Christmas shopping. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. A lot of places do ‘buy one get one free’ offers at Christmas time, so it could easily be that you end up with something spare anyway that somebody in hospital might really appreciate. Then it’s just a case of taking the presents unwrapped to one of the designated drop-off points.
Confirmed drop-off points
• Blue Skies Hospital Fund, Blackpool Victoria Hospital
• Marks and Spencer, Blackpool Victoria Hospital
• Morrisons, Squires Gate Lane, Blackpool
• Booths, Teanlowe Centre, Poulton
• Poppy and Jacks Nursery, Breck Road, Poulton
What to buy
Sabila Johnson, Ward Manager of the Care for the Elderly ward at Blackpool Victoria, recommends toiletries, biscuits, games, books - the list is exhaustive. If in doubt, just ring the Blue Sies Hospital Fund on 01253 957903
What not to buy
There is strictly no alcohol allowed.
Dangerous items such as knives are also not permitted.
Sabila Johnson also added that socks are a bad idea, unless they have grip, due to older patients being at the risk of falls.
Boxes of chocolates may be a bad idea as a number of older patients suffer from diabetes.