Photo gallery: 90-year-old Margaret Chadd’s pledge to open Great Yarmouth and Waveney East Coast Hospice
PUBLISHED: 06:12 07 August 2012
She has spent her life creating havens of comfort and care for the terminally ill.
Margaret Chadd: A life in health care
Margaret Chadd, née Collett, was born in Bromley in 1922, and spent her childhood years holidaying in Southwold.
She began in health care as a Hospital Lady Almoner – a welfare post now replaced by social workers.
During the second world war, she joined the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead where she helped rehabilitate pilots with serious burns.
She later became the County Almoner for East Sussex where she cared for terminally ill people. During her work in Southern England, she was approached by RAF pilot Group Captain Leonard Cheshire to see whether he could take on some of her patients for a new care home he was setting up in a country house.
The move was blocked, but he went on to found 150 Cheshire homes across the world.
Meanwhile, in 1947 she first encountered fellow almoner Cicely Saunders. The pair were both struck by how hospitals cared for dying people. Their discussions would eventually culminate in the opening of the St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham, where Mrs Chadd spent some time working as the centre’s almoner. Following the death of her sons, she set up an organisation for grieving parents called Compassionate Friends and trained in London as bereavement councillor for Cruse Bereavement Care.
She spent 24 years as an organiser at the Waveney branch of Cruse, and the same amount of time working as a Lowestoft magistrate. In 1990, she was made an MBE for services to the Red Cross.
But Margaret Chadd is determined to finish one last project – despite just celebrating her 90th birthday.
The advocate for dying people wants to raise £4m to open a new East Coast Hospice (ECH) for Great Yarmouth and Waveney.
It is a pledge which comes 45 years since she played a key role in helping found the hospice movement with Dame Cicely Saunders. However, she has remained humble about her involvement in the venture, which would see a 10-bedroom retreat created in Gorleston.
“I don’t matter,” she said at her home in Southwold. “We are not here for ourselves, we are here for the patients. I am just a cog in the wheel to make something happen for other people.”
Mrs Chadd’s campaign to deliver the hospice has been decades in the making. She first mooted the idea more than 30 years ago after discovering a fully-fledged hospice was needed.
But her hopes of getting the facility built took a step forward in May when the ECH was granted planning consent to build within five acres of landscaped grounds at Gorleston.
“I am not going on forever,” she said. “I had heart surgery last year, and I have had another hip replacement, I think people will end up calling me the bionic granny.
“I just want five more years to get the hospice built – I think that is fair enough.”
The project has been envisaged as a tranquil retreat for people battling life-limiting illnesses. It will feature en-suite bedrooms, private gardens and a nursing support area planned around a courtyard. The hospice will have running costs of £1.8m a year and will be built as soon as the £4m has been raised.
Speaking about the benefits of the hospice, she said: “The trouble with the grieving process is that we do not know how we are going to react because everyone is different. It depends on what experiences you have had in life. If there is no anger, and you think ‘what a wonderful end’ with no pain and the person has lived a life that we can remember, people want to come back to the hospice because they feel safe and they can express their grief.”
Despite achieving great success, Mrs Chadd’s family life has been fraught with moments of tragedy.
In 1950, she married her husband Colonel George Chadd – former prime minister Ted Heath was best man at their wedding.
Together, they looked after Chadds of Lowestoft, she lost two of her sons within two years.
Christopher drowned when Morning Cloud, Ted Heath’s boat, capsized in a storm sailing back to Cowes and Timothy was killed in a hit and run car accident in 1976 during a holiday in France.
However, looking back on her life, she maintains that she has still been very lucky. “I always say to the grandchildren, that chapter of your life is now closed, but the next chapter of your life will not start until you turn the door handle.”
Mrs Chadd moved to Southwold in 2003 after her husband died in 1997.
For more information visit www.eastcoasthospice.co.uk
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