Patients say thanks to hospital stars

Sarah BrealeyThe Big C cancer centre and a nurse described as a 'guardian angel' have been picked as the champions who go the extra mile from hundreds of staff put forward by patients.Sarah Brealey

The Big C cancer centre and a nurse described as a 'guardian angel' have been picked as the champions who go the extra mile from hundreds of staff put forward by patients.

Individuals and departments at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital were nominated for the hospital's patient choice awards. And the Big C information and support centre was chosen as the most outstanding department, winning the gold award, while endocrine specialist nurse Sondra Gorick won the gold individual award.

The Big C centre, a collaboration between the hospital and the Big C charity, which was funded with help from Evening News readers, was described by patients as 'warm, open and welcoming' and 'an oasis of calm in the midst of all the stress', and staff were praised for being friendly and kind. It was nominated by many people, including Stephanie Brooks, 57, a grandmother-of-four from Hevingham, near Aylsham. The former welfare assistant at Hevingham Primary School was diagnosed with breast cancer last year after a routine mammogram. She said: 'I walked through the door scared stiff, but they put you at ease. The care and compassion those people show is just amazing. They arranged for massage for me, and a make-up class with other women who were in my position, and we were laughing and joking together.'

The silver award went to the Davison Day Unit at Cromer Hospital, while Hethel ward won the bronze award. One of the patients who nominated it praised the staff for their care of his dying mother, and wrote: 'They went beyond being professional and showed they cared. My mum's last days were spent with wonderful people.'

Mrs Gorick was nominated by nine patients, including Michael and Patricia Stamp, from Drayton, and Judith Snowling, 49, from Cawston, near Aylsham. Mrs Snowling was diagnosed with Cushing's Syndrome, a benign tumour on her adrenal gland, in 2005, and felt Mrs Gorick was 'my rock'. The mother-of-two and grandmother-of-two thought she would never recover and would be on steroids for the rest of her life. She said: 'There were times I felt so lonely at home but a phone call to Sondra, which sometimes only took seconds, gave me a reason to lift my chin up and carry on. She was just like a guardian angel. She still is really, for other people as well.'

With the help of an operation she is now 'fighting fit' and was able to quit her job at Prospect Medical Practice on Aylsham Road, Norwich, to set up her own business, a private meals-on-wheels company.

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She said: 'Sondra has been amazing. The whole hospital was fantastic. When I first met her she could see that inside I was going to pieces. She held my hand and said: 'You look as though you want to cry.' I said I would do that when I got home, and she said 'Please, I would rather you do it now.' I shall never forget those few words which gave me all the confidence I needed to get through my battle I had ahead.'

Mrs Gorick, who lives in Mulbarton, was has worked at the hospital since 1980, when she started as an auxiliary nurse. She said: 'I feel very overwhelmed. I am really pleased and proud and very grateful to all the people who nominated me. But it is not all about me. We are a team. In the background there are so many people working so hard doing things for them, like tests in the lab.

'At the end of the day we are here for the patients. To me it is such an important thing and this job is such a big part of my life.

'If it was me I would want someone to give me a hug, and that is what I do for other people.'

The awards were given out at a ceremony in the Forum on Friday evening. The quality of nominations was so high that the silver award was awarded to two members of staff - consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon Richard Haywood, and consultant cardiologist Cairistine Grahame-Clarke.

Mr Haywood was nominated by three patients, including Jacquie Lloyd, from Overstrand, near Cromer, and Brenda Egmore, from Mattishall, near Dereham. Mrs Egmore, an accounts assistant and mother-of-four, had her breast rebuilt by Mr Haywood in April following a mastectomy for breast cancer in 2007. She said: 'Mr Haywood has given me not only a new breast but the confidence in life again.' She said he makes everyone feel they are important, and took the time to reassure her husband Colin, too. She said: 'He just seemed such a genuine person, like he really cared.'

She had her breast rebuilt using fat from her stomach, and said: 'I am really pleased with it. Having a reconstruction, the difference it has made, there are no words to describe it.'

She also praised all the nurses in the Weybourne Day Unit, and said: 'From being diagnosed with breast cancer right through to having reconstruction I have always felt that somebody cared.'

Dr Grahame-Clarke was nominated by numerous patients and praised for being 'such a caring person and a first-class doctor'. One of the most moving nominations was from Hugh Shearer, from Honingham, near Norwich, who died in June aged 83. The former head of Alderman Leach School in Gorleston wrote: 'One walks into her consultancy room on a stick and comes out walking on air.'

His family were keen for his nomination to stand, because it was his heartfelt wish for Dr Grahame-Clarke to win an award.

The bronze award went to Mary Gotts, a nurse in the critical care complex. John Thurman, 69, from Eaton, a retired careers advisor at the University of East Anglia, nominated her after spending several days in the hospital's high dependency unit last autumn. He was recovering from three operations for cancer of the jawbone, during which his jaw had to be rebuilt with bone from his leg and his arm. He said: 'Mary was outstanding, she was always efficient and well-organised. She really went the extra mile and did good old-fashioned nursing. This makes enormous difference to the well-being of patients.'

See for a slideshow of pictures of winners and images from the awards ceremony.

Has your life been improved by someone who has gone the extra mile? Contact us on 01603 772485 or