WIGHT LIVING WALKING through the door of the new John Cheverton centre was like walking into the house of a friend, as I was suddenly enveloped in people welcoming me, offering coffee and cakes.
The new centre, built in the former NHS building, Halberry Lodge, is part of the Earl Mountbatten Hospice, Newport, a well-known and well-loved Island landmark, somewhere many have had first and second-hand experience of.
The funding for the new centre came from several sources, not least the building’s namesake, John Cheverton, an elusive and generous benefactor, who lived in Brighstone.
The son of Frank Cheverton, John worked at his father’s car garage in Newport, for most of his life, living at the family home until he died five years ago.
He left a list of charities he was interested in, with the instructions his estate be divided between them, and to ensure all Islanders benefited. His estate has made two donations to the hospice, the first spent upgrading the in-patient rooms, wards, and the chapel.
Funding for the new centre also came by way of just under £500,000 from the department of health, and other personal donations.
Becky McGregor, clinical centre manager, was my guide as we explored the facility, starting in the spacious foyer, decorated in cream and lime green, with an impressive curved glass wall.
Becky explained the wide open space would be home to the most important new service offered by the hospice, the drop-in support centre.
"Anyone with, or affected by, life-limiting illnesses can drop in for help and support at any time, Monday to Friday," she said.
"We have computers for people to use, TVs and DVDs for them to watch, and sessions with expert staff members."
Walking down the brightly lit, glass-roofed passage, we arrive at the hub of the centre, the bustling cafe. It is used by patients, visitors, and staff alike, and all of the sandwiches, snacks and cakes are freshly prepared in the cafe’s kitchen.
The cafe, designed to be open and welcoming, and with views over the landscaped gardens, is a place of normality, where medical treatment can be forgotten.
Becky said: "A young lady was referred here to have her cancer treatment and she would sit in the cafe and access the free wifi on her iPad. It gave her a sense of normality."
The landscaped gardens, with plants donated and planted by Chris Kidd of Ventnor Botanic Garden, surround the building, and are visible from all the expansive windows. The lounges and the cafe have foldback doors and level access outside, making the garden an extension of the building.
"When the weather warms up, we will get some tables and chairs for the decking, so patients and visitors can sit outside and make the most of the lovely garden and the views," said Becky.
Diversional therapies are something of which staff at the centre are very proud. Katie Mansbridge, diversional therapist, runs an art and craft studio, offering patients and visitors the chance to be creative.
She said: "Patients can come here to try something new, when they physically can’t do what they used to any more. We had a man who used to be a boatbuilder. He couldn’t do that any more, so he started to paint pictures of boats.
"People get so much joy when they realise they can do something creative, and when you are diverted and absorbed in something, you forget your worries and pains."
The bright and cheerful room is full of art materials, has a library of books for people to borrow, games and jigsaws, and artwork hanging on the walls. Some patients have had work commissioned by outsiders, and others have discovered a hidden talent.
Katie said: "Another patient, Allan Simpson, came here and we asked him what he was interested in. He said horse racing, so we got him a picture of a horse and he started painting it."
Katie shows me a copy of his work, a painting showing a profile of a chestnut horse, every shadow captured by someone who has clearly spent years studying a horse’s form.
A couple of patients are by the window, sharing a jigsaw. The male patient said: "We just like being here with the company, we both come along every Thursday and do a jigsaw."
The woman adds: "We can have a good chat and a good laugh, a bit of banter with everyone here. They are always thinking up lots of different things for us to do."
Jillian Stanbridge, the complementary therapist co-ordinator, manages spa treatments and complementary therapies at the centre, running massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, spiritual therapies and pampering from two treatment rooms. The only thing that differentiates them from a high-end spa, is the wider doorways. Calming music, candles, crystals, colourful towels, and beds dressed with flowers give no hint of a medical facility, and like the arts and crafts, allow people to be whisked away to normality and bliss.
As well as the pleasurable and luxurious side to the centre, there has, of course, to be a clinical side. Medical treatment rooms, physiotherapy, psychology and counselling also are catered for in the centre, but, like the rest of the building, the emphasis is on comfort and relaxation.
The rooms are carpeted, there are paintings on every wall, arm chairs and colourful throws across the beds. Becky jokes of many trips to Ikea.
The most striking aspect is the balance between comfort, style and function, with no trace of the building’s former function, and no area is wasted, with every cosy nook and cranny filled with arm chairs overlooking the landscaped gardens.
Tina Harris, hospice chief executive, said: "We want our services to be more than just about dying. We are here to help people with living, not just providing care right at the end of life but stepping in sooner in the patients’ journey, from the very point of diagnosis.
"We want our services to be more than just for patients themselves, but for friends and their family too. Whether it is emotional support or more practical help."
The pride the staff have in their new centre is infectious. They genuinely love and care about their patients, and work hard to ensure they get the most out of their time at the centre, and that life becomes a joy.