The Mermaid Centre dialysis unit opens for Wells holidaymakers

Holidaymakers in Wells in need of renal dialysis can now enjoy their break without worrying about where to get treated, thanks to the fundraising efforts of a Norfolk family.

Yesterday, The Mermaid Centre was opened at Wells Community Hospital by north Norfolk MP Norman Lamb in memory of Helen Geering, who died in December 2009 aged 64.

Just two months after she passed away, her husband Chris and children Sophy, Lucy and Toby began fundraising for the unit which allows visitors to the seaside town to have renal dialysis while on holiday.

Sophy Geering, 31, said her mother went into kidney failure because of a long-term and terminal blood disorder and had dialysis for two years.

She said: 'When you have kidney failure your independence is taken away because you have to be in reach of dialysis. Giving a holiday provision means people who want to come and have a holiday don't have the fear of coming to this area and suddenly having to go back home.


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'You have got to do everything you can to make every provision to give them as rich and fulfilling a life as you can have with this level of kidney failure.'

Fundraising for the �120,000 Mermaid Centre took just over a year thanks to the efforts of the Geering family, who spent their weekends collecting donations and organising events, as well as volunteers and generous locals and visitors to Wells.

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Although currently only open to holidaymakers, the Wells Community Hospital Trust hopes to eventually be able to offer the dialysis service to local people too.

It would mean patients like Mrs Geering, who lived in Burnham Overy Staithe, would not have to travel many miles to the nearest hospital in Norwich or King's Lynn for treatment.

Jonathan Hazell, chairman of the charitable trust board which now runs the independent hospital, said: 'Our obvious aim is to make this facility available to local people who might have a 70 mile round trip three times a week. We really are exactly in the right place to help the community with this enormously important facility.'

The unit has already treated its first patients and has received positive feedback from patients. Yesterday, it was officially opened by Mr Lamb, a long-standing support of the community hospital, who said: 'I am very proud to have been asked to open this fantastic facility. The achievements and dedication of everyone involved in the Wells Community Hospital project are truly inspiring.'

The hospital currently offers services including NHS physiotherapy, dentistry, mental health but Mr Hazell said it had plans to provide 'a whole spectrum of health and social care'.

The name The Mermaid Centre was suggested by Mr Geering because his wife was well-known for playing a mermaid in her village's show each Christmas.

Miss Geering said her family wanted to choose something uplifting and joyful for patients.

A open day and garden fete will celebrate the opening of The Mermaid Centre from 2pm on Sunday August 14.

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