THE anniversary year of Acorns Children’s Hospice will be especially poignant for one staff member who has been there from the start.
Sue Curry will be retiring from her post as head nurse at the Worcester hospice in Bath Road after 25 years’ service to the charity.
Having been there since the charity opened its first hospice in Selly Oak, Birmingham, Mrs Curry has seen Acorns take shape over the years helping to care for a large proportion of the 2,000 children supported by the three hospices (the other is in Walsall) since 1988.
The 61-year-old said: “I have very, very mixed feelings about leaving.
“Having been at Acorns for 25 years it has been such a huge part of my life for a long time.
“When I started my children (twins Adam and Vicky) were both one. Now they are 26-year-olds and it has been a big part of their lives as well.”
Having previously worked for the NHS, Mrs Curry began her career at Acorns working one night shift a week.
The opening was a very regal affair and the mother-of-two was looking on as Diana, Princess of Wales, opened the hospice, only the third of its kind in the world, and signed the visitors’ book.
“She actually spent most of her time talking to the families,” Mrs Curry said.
“She was really lovely and was genuinely really interested in the families and what they were saying.
”All the staff thought they looked really smart but she was so stylish and her make up was immaculate.
“Everything had built up to that day and it was very exciting.”
During her career at Acorns, Mrs Curry went from her one night a week to becoming day staff nurse, deputy head nurse and eventually moving across to the Worcester hospice when it first opened in 2007 as head nurse.
“I came down to have a look at it but then it was just a muddy field that has since been turned into this impressive building,” she said.
“It didn’t occur to me that there would be a job down here because people who work at Acorns don’t leave.
“So when the job came up and I was offered it I just grabbed it.”
Initially, having two young children of her own had given her some reservations about being able to cope with working with children who were very ill. But seeing the strength of the parents and children has proved inspirational to Mrs Curry.
“You feel very grateful and very thankful for what you have got when you see the other side and how people struggle but you also see the strength of the families, which is unbelievable,” she said. To this day it never ceases to amaze me how they cope with the pressures they have and all the obstacles they face.”
Developments in technology has also brought about a change in the way children are cared for during the 25 years Mrs Curry has been working for the hospice. She said: “At the very beginning it was very basic compared with what it is now. Because of medical interventions we have more technology-dependant children and their needs are a bit more complex than they used to be and they are living longer.”
Highlights over the years included being a Paralympic torchbearer through Harrow last year in a team with a child cared for by Acorns and the hospice’s annual visit to West Midland Safari Park.
The city’s issues with flooding and the odd snowstorm has meant on occasion Mrs Curry has been unable to get back to her home in Birmingham and led to impromptu sleepovers at the hospice.
Christmas and Easter times were also memorable with an increase in people visiting to deliver presents and chocolate eggs, as well as donations ranging from a few pounds to thousands.
And it is the community’s support for Acorns which Mrs Curry believes will help the charity see out its impressive five-year expansion plan to support more children through at-home care.
“I think it will be such a good thing because at the Worcester hospice we have people coming from Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and south Warwickshire and some have to make a 70-mile journey,” she said.
“When families come in they have so much equipment, whether they are coming here for two weeks or two days they still have to bring everything as well as travelling a great distance, so it is these families it will benefit.”
Though she will be retiring from Acorns before the at-home care service comes to fruition, she has no desire to leave the charity behind completely when she leaves at the end of the month.
“I’m going to miss the children and families, some I have known for many, many years, and I’ll miss the staff, who you have to work closely with in a job like this.
“I’m sure I will keep in touch because I can’t see me just saying ‘goodbye’ and going.”
l Acorns is creating a living history for its 25th anniversary and is collecting photographs, memories and video footage from families and staff.
Items can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to 25 years of caring, Acorns Children’s Hospice, Drakes Court, Alcester Road, Wythall, B47 6JR.