ME sufferer's £15,000 hospital gift

Often bedridden by exhaustion, ME-sufferer Tracey Lilly passes the time trawling the internet and newspapers for competitions to enter.When she came across a quiz offering £15,000 to make a dream come true you might have thought she was more deserving of a treat than most.

Often bedridden by exhaustion, ME-sufferer Tracey Lilly passes the time trawling the internet and newspapers for competitions to enter.

When she came across a quiz offering £15,000 to make a dream come true you might have thought she was more deserving of a treat than most.

But while some wrote in asking for a butler or chauffeur, the 48-year-old from Gorleston was thinking of helping others.

Knowing how much the tranquillity of watching birds and butterflies helped her own state-of-mind, Mrs Lilly proposed that the money was spent building a garden at the James Paget University Hospital (JPH) for the use of cancer patients.

Judges of the New Nordic Win a Dream competition were so impressed they awarded her the £15,000 first prize.

Water now gurgles gently down a rock and plants make a natural refuge from drab hospital life at the garden which is for the use of the Sandra Chapman Centre and ward 17 cancer patients.

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Mrs Lilly had been resting for a week to gather her strength to make the short trip across the road from where she lives to the JPH for the official opening of the new courtyard garden yesterday by hospital trust chairman John Hemming.

She said it was lucky she did not win the second prize, a holiday for two to Finland, as her condition prevented her from travelling.

“I don't enter holiday competitions, which are most of them, because I suffer from severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) which renders me relatively housebound for large periods of time and I would not be well enough to travel,” said the former middle school teacher, who has had ME since 1999 and was forced to stop working in 2003.

“I had the idea for the garden after a friend's sister-in-law was in the hospital and said the garden there had no flowers and was a very sad place.

“I believe that there is a huge therapeutic value for patients to sit in an aesthetic natural setting surrounded by colour, scent and texture that attracts birds, butterflies and bees.”

And she said: “No amount of money can buy my health back or buy me energy. Whether it's £15m or £15,000 it just won't happen. You can buy an experience but it is then gone. Other people are going to be able to enjoy this garden. It is more permanent than an individual experience and will hopefully benefit lots of people.”

She entered the competition in 2005 but did not hear that she had won until last year. It was then that she set to work with landscape gardener Tony Elvin to make her dream a reality.

Mick Moorhouse, a leukaemia patient who has been receiving chemotherapy at the centre since October, has seen the difference the garden has made to the quality of patients' lives.

The 64-year-old, who attends the day clinic up to four times a week, said: “If you have a problem or are a little bit down, and you might think you are tough but believe me, you need help. The nurses are wonderful but the garden helps too. Sitting in the day room which looks over it you see birds, and flowers change colour over the season. It is the little things in life that are important when you get to this sort of thing.”

Senior sister in the Sandra Chapman Centre Liz Alyward said: “The garden has made a huge difference to patients. A lot of them are in hospital for a long time and this place takes them away from the hospital environment. When all the plants have grown up it should allow people to escape from the fact that they are in hospital at all and from their unpleasant treatment for a little while.”