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Memorial garden to Covid victims and organ donors at Royal Preston Hospital

Posted on - 5th August, 2023 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Charities, Fulwood, Health, Preston News, Sharoe Green, South Ribble News
Ros Collins, charity administrator; Dan Hill, head of hospital charities; Rebecca Arestidou, grant and trust fundraiser with the memorial garden

A memorial garden to those who lost loved ones to Covid has opened at Royal Preston Hospital.

It is also in memory of those who donated their organs after passing away from any cause.

The facilities have been established by the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Charity to help support two groups of people whose grief may have been shaped by the very particular circumstances of their loss.

Read more: Royal Preston Hospital boss opens up on decision to leave

However, the specially-curated spaces are also open to all hospital patients, staff and visitors who find themselves in need of a place to which they can escape for a moment of quiet.

A memorial tree forms the centrepiece of the Royal Preston garden, with its leaves bearing the names of organ donors – both to honour the individuals who have given the gift of life after their own death and also to encourage others to to consider doing the same. The area will now be the backdrop for an annual organ donation memorial and thanksgiving service, with the inaugural event having taken place last month.

The two enclaves at the Preston and Chorley hospital sites were largely funded by a £100,000 grant from NHS Charities Together, an umbrella organisation for health service fundraising, which generated over £150m to support staff at the height of the pandemic.

Dan Hill, head of hospital charities at Lancashire Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (LTH), told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the source of the funding added an extra poignancy to the project.

“If it wasn’t for Covid, the money wouldn’t have been raised to help facilitate something like this – and yet it is it now [somewhere] to remember anybody who, sadly, was lost during that period and [help people] with the grief and trauma that they experienced as a family or individuals.

“You look back now and you almost can’t believe it happened – but when we were all in the midst of it, it was just such a transformation and it impacted everybody,” Dan added.

Read more: Building work at Royal Preston Hospital ‘won’t start until 2030’

There are many who are still living with that impact in Central Lancashire today – and for whom it is hoped that the memorial gardens will be a source of comfort.

Across Preston, Chorley and South Ribble, more than 1,300 people have died with Covid mentioned on their death certificate since the pandemic began, according to the latest government figures. Covid-related deaths in the low single digits have still been reported in all three districts this summer.

Dan said that he was particularly pleased that staff would now have a place of sanctuary that they could visit during a break from – or after the end of – “a difficult shift”.

“There wasn’t really anywhere [previously] where you could just get away and have that private space – an escape. Our main aim was to create a lasting tribute to honour and remember those we have lost and show our gratitude to those who have given life to others.

“[The gardens] are multi-purpose areas that will benefit so many different people.”

The Royal Preston’s memorial garden can be found opposite the chapel and prayer room on the Sharoe Green Lane site, while the garden that has been created at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital is in a suitably quiet and secluded area behind one of its main car parks off Euxton Lane.

The new facilities were also backed by donations of £5,000 from the Medicash Foundation and £1,000 from David Wilson Homes.

Ellie Orton OBE, chief executive of NHS Charities Together, said of the gardens that the organisation had funded: “In the wake of Covid-19, NHS staff are under more pressure than ever before – and having spaces where they can rest and reflect in between busy shifts can make a huge difference to their overall health and wellbeing.

“We are so pleased we could help create this memorial garden at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, together with the hospital charity and the generous support of the public. It really will make a big difference not just to staff, but to the patients they support – and of course is a beautiful way to honour lives lost during the pandemic.”

Read more: Call for Preston city centre health hub as part of new hospital plans

The tree of life

The use of the leaves on the Royal Preston’s memorial tree to create named tributes to individual organ donors was the brainchild of Lancashire-based creative design company, Forjd.

Company director Ray Parker said that it had been “an honour to have designed and built the Tree of life for the memorial garden – may it be a special place for all, for years to come”.

LTH has also offered its thanks to the wide range of other contractors and consultants that were instrumental in the creation of the two memorial gardens – Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP), Builders and Joiners, Blezard, USP Creations, Brimet, James Mercer Group, Ameon Building Services, Audit Comms, TRP Consulting and Fayyaz Patel, LTH’s own senior project manager for property and estates.

FWP senior associate David Simmons, who led the recent revamp of the Royal Preston’s Charters Restaurant – which leads into the memorial garden – said that the new outside area was “a very special place for hospital visitors and staff”.

“We feel very privileged that we were able to play our part in its creation, honouring both organ donors and those who sadly lost their lives in the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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