PETER White never used to have a problem with heights.
ST LUKE’S Hospice in Sheffield has launched a £5 million appeal to rebuild its inpatient unit. The charity’s ‘Room to...’ campaign, which is backed by The Star, highlights St Luke’s mission to create a set of single rooms, private spaces where patients can spend their final days. Ben Spencer spoke to Peter White, a patient who has delighted in a new skill - making ties in the hospice’s craft room.
The Sheffield electrician specialised in crane maintenance, so was used to working far above the ground.
But then one day, five years ago, Peter started feeling dizzy while he was working on a job.
Worried, the dad of three from Standon Drive, Wincobank went to the doctor.
“I had all sorts of tests and they all came back negative,” Peter, now aged 59, told The Star.
His wife Josie, 58, was reassured at first.
“I thought it was going to be OK, because the tests showed there was nothing wrong,” she said.
But then doctors told the couple the news that would turn their world upside down - Peter had multiple system atrophy, a rare neurological disease which slowly takes away a victim’s mental and bodily functions.
“Hearing that was like being hit in the face,” said Josie.
“His life has completely changed. He was fit and active and loved fishing.
“Now his life like that has ended and he is going down a different road.”
The disease is slowly killing off Peter’s brain cells, resulting in problems with mobility, balance and the way his body works.
For the last two years Peter has been visiting St Luke’s Hospice once a week, which has helped him put his condition into perspective.
And he is refusing to let the disease get him down.
Instead of wallowing, he and Josie are determined to make the most of the time together and enjoy life with their three daughters and seven grandchildren.
“It is just about making the best of it,” said Josie, who has retired from her job as a Sainsbury’s worker to care for her husband. Each step of the way we just know it’s a step closer to the end.
“But we are not downhearted about it. We have seen our children and our grandchildren grow up.
“And Peter is very upbeat - he has a great sense of humour which helps you through it.
“We know at some point it will come to an end. But we will not let that get in the way of the joy we have.”
She added: “St Luke’s Hospice is a big part of that.
“I can remember the first day I took him into St Luke’s.
“It was completely alien to us - a fit and active electrician, a keen fisherman, visiting a hospice day centre.
“But I cannot speak highly enough of them, They are a great support to us.”
Peter, proudly wearing one of several silk ties he has made in the hospice’s craft room, said: “I go in on a Monday and I know I’m safe and secure.
“I go in the art room and I make ties and scarves, and do pottery.
“I even do some pastels.
“I was never artistic before, but as one door closes, another one opens.”
He added: “It’s not like a patient relationship being there - it’s more like a friendship.
“When I go in I forget about my condition.”
Peter has become one of the faces of St Luke’s £5 million appeal to rebuild the 20-bed inpatient unit.
The campaign - for which The Star has pledged to raise £100,000 - will transform the large, impersonal wards into modern, private, en-suite bedrooms.
Josie said: “We do talk about the end - and we would like to keep Peter at home.
“But if we had a room like that at St Luke’s it would be brilliant.
“You need some privacy at that point, somewhere you can have your family around you.”