Now we are one! The Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre at Fulwood celebrates in style

It was a time to celebrate in the sunshine as clients and staff marked the first birthday of a very special state of the art centre.

Now we are one - staff at the Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre in Fulwood, Preston, celebrate their first anniversary                             Photo: Neil Cross
Now we are one - staff at the Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre in Fulwood, Preston, celebrate their first anniversary Photo: Neil Cross

It was the Happy Birthday celebration that earlier this year looked impossible.

The Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre organised an outdoor tea party for its residents and staff this week to mark the first anniversary of the opening of the pioneering centre in Fulwood

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With the lifting of some of the Covid-19 restrictions and the sun shining it was a joyous opportunity to mark a milestone moment in the life of the new £12m centre on Teal Avenue.

Birthday serenade as Centre resident and former Preston councillor Danny Gallagher is reunited with his daughter singer Dani Wallace Photo: Neil Cross

It has been a testing and challenging year. The move of the Sue Ryder centre from Cuerden Hall to Fulwood took place just weeks after last March's pandemic lockdown began. But staff are proud of the way they and their clients have coped through this demanding and most unusual of years.

Speaking just before the tea party Head of Clinical Services Natalie Hilton, said: "We planned to have an official opening ceremony and we were never able to do that. We've still not been able to do that. Today is just to celebrate with clients and all the wonderful staff what we've achieved...and it's a lot. We've gone from strength to strength."

She continued: "We've people with long term neurological conditions and also a specialist rehabilitation unit. In the last year we've had over 40 clients through the service, most with a very successful outcome. Most have been discharged back to their home after having a period of rehabilitation with us here."

From nurses and specialist occupational therapists to physiotherapists, speech and language therapists the staff's expertise is wide ranging.

Natalie Hilton, Head of Clinical Services and Karen Marterson enjoy the party Photo: Neil Cross

Natalie continued: ". We've continued to expand our service.We also have a neuropsychologist and we have also just started a music therapy service. A psycho sexual counselling service is to start soon for clients and we also have an in house counsellor as well. It's still the same ambition we have to grow our service and change things for a generation. I feel we're well on our way to becoming a centre of excellence. We've embedded a culture of learning and improvement amongst our staff. We're really proud of our achievements and really proud of our staff. Today's just a day to thank staff for their hard work through the pandemic as well as a celebration for all the clients."

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There was a marquee, balloon and bunting and a singer - Dani Wallace, daughter of long term centre resident, former Preston councillor Danny Gallagher. For more about Dani's visit see here .

During the past year centre staff have had to use Zoom a lot - to keep families in touch with clients and to have classes such as dance and wheelchair yoga and religious services accessible by residents.

They have also been inventive in devising ways to keep residents and staff in good spirits. Natalie said: "We've had Elvis days, Dolly Parton and Star Wars days and there is a Cliff Richard day coming up."

Fundraiser Michelle White pictured in the grounds of the Centre where it's hoped to create a sensory and wheelchair friendly garden Photo: Neil Cross
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A special pod with glass barrier and a speaker system was built to allow distanced visits, and some visits have been permitted in the garden and in rooms but there is still a way to go said Natalie, adding: "We're hopeful of coming out of the lockdown tunnel .We can't wait to welcome people back through our doors."

There was regret it was not possible to invite all the rehabilitation clients back for the birthday celebration - but it remains a hope for the future to welcome them back when pandemic restrictions are lifted. But one former resident who spent 12 weeks at the Centre was invited back as a VIP guest. Laura Bacon, 35, had already pledged: "I want to return to volunteer, fundraise and help in any way I can to

pay back my love for Sue Ryder. It’s truly a special place." To read Laura's story see here .

Many volunteers will be needed in the future to help with tasks such as gardening and one to one visits with clients. Natalie said they already have a known list of would be volunteers as many of those already helped by the Centre have said they wanted to volunteer and help with fund raising in the future.

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Aleena Khurshid and Debbie Smith at the tea party Photo: Neil Cross

As a longer term project the Centre hopes to revamp its lawned garden into a wheelchair friendly garden with raised beds for vegetable and flower growing and a sensory garden. It will be fundraising for that project in the future.

* For our previous reports on how the Centre has helped two individuals regain their independence see here . and here .

* The Lancashire Post is more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism. For unlimited access to Lancashire news and information online, you can subscribe here.

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VIP party guest Laura Bacon wants to help fundraise for the centre and help other residents following her rehabilitation stay there Photo: Neilo Cross
It's a high five from Trudy Burke and Victor Duncley at the tea party Photo: Neil Cross