For the fourth year running, Joy Milton, aged 52, is offering the chance to win a holiday stay at her French holiday home - La Varenne Farmhouse Gîte, in the Dordogne, and this year it’s for those who sign up to the Sheffield Hospitals Lottery in August and September.
Last year, Joy and her husband, John, helped raised thousands through the raffle, and hopes this year’s prize will raise further funds helps patients like her Nan, who was treated at the Northern General Hospital for end of life care.
Joy said: “Nan and I were very close. I’d help her with shopping, letters or phone calls and we’d go out for lunch together. She liked the ASDA café best.
“Nan was really well when I noticed a small lump on her leg. It was a complete shock when she was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. Nan was frightened of hospitals, she had never been more than an outpatient in 84 years. However her biggest fear, more than the impact of the illness was that she would lose her independence and wouldn’t be unable to return to her home of 40 years.
“She was never unwell, so her final illness was very upsetting. Staff at the hospital did everything possible to keep her comfortable and pain free. I expected that. We all take for granted that hospital staff will be well-trained, caring specialists, good at their job.
“What absolutely overwhelmed me was what they gave over and above that. It was the small, kind gestures that made such a difference to a very ill, scared lady, who was losing a little more of her strength every day.
“The staff were marvellous. They helped Nan to telephone me when she was feeling low, or worried. When she had no appetite, they tempted her with her favourite nibbles. They encouraged her to take her medicine, drink a little and do just one more leg lift. They even persuaded her to sing to them. One support worker brought in a photo book of Sheffield and took the time to listen to Nan’s memories.
“In her final weeks and days, Nan wanted me by her side constantly. The staff were lovely. They all popped in to say hello, even if they weren’t looking after Nan that day. Nothing was too much trouble. They made sure Nan was clean and comfortable, and preserved her privacy and dignity even when she may not have been aware of what was going on. Just as importantly, they took care of us, her family, even when the strain of those last months meant we weren’t always able to take care of each other.
“When I remember the care and empathy we experienced from the staff, I am overwhelmed. Caring for someone towards the end of their life is so physically and emotionally demanding, but the staff continued to give day after day. I wanted to give something back. I know everyone appreciates a ‘thank you’. But, I saw time and again that what the staff really loved was when someone did something that helped them to help patients and their families.
“We run a holiday home in France, so we offered a week’s holiday as a raffle prize. It seemed such a small thing, but the staff used the funds to buy two folding beds to enable relatives to stay close by during those terrible last days.
“We helped raise so much money that we’ve decided to offer a holiday this year again. Plus, our Yorkshire guests who have won the prize previously have been unbelievable, we have had so much fun and laughter with them all while they have been here. It’s like being on holiday ourselves.
“It’s so satisfying that we are able to give something back to the people who gave so much to us. Nan would have been 90 this year. She would have loved that the prize is going to help ordinary Sheffield people.”
The Sheffield Hospitals Lottery raises vital funds for Sheffield’s NHS hospitals and community services.
The weekly draw costs from only £1 a week and all of the proceeds help to fund specialist equipment and facilities, pioneering research, patient support services and the transformation of local hospitals into more comfortable and welcoming spaces.
All proceeds go to Sheffield Hospital’s Charity. The winners are announced weekly and prizes are awarded for those who match three, four, five and six numbers.