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Dedication and a decade of caring

PUBLISHED: 15:01 24 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:47 23 August 2010

CELEBRATION:  Muriel Chambers, Garry Westpfel, Nurse Carol Fitzpatrick, Sue Pitcher and Luke Townsend.

CELEBRATION: Muriel Chambers, Garry Westpfel, Nurse Carol Fitzpatrick, Sue Pitcher and Luke Townsend.

STAFF and patients of an activity group for people with life shortening illnesses have been celebrating 10 years since it first opened its doors. The Patients Activity Group, held twice a week at the EllenorLions Centre, East Hill Drive, Dartford, has be

STAFF and patients of an activity group for people with life shortening illnesses have been celebrating 10 years since it first opened its doors.

The Patients Activity Group, held twice a week at the EllenorLions Centre, East Hill Drive, Dartford, has been running since 1999.

Hundreds of patients from across north Kent have attended the twice weekly sessions since then, and on June 17, current users, carers and staff members got together for a buffet lunch on the anniversary at the centre.

Patients Garry Westpfel, 51, of Dobson Road, Gravesend, has been attending the group for nine years. Suffering from Cystic Fibrosis since he was diagnosed at the age of three, he had a heart and lung transplant in 1999.

He said: "EllenorLions picked up the pieces. I wasn't cured after the heart and lung transplant, you can never cure Cystic Fibrosis, but it was lovely to know I had their support. It takes a lot of worry out of my life. When you are feeling that low and someone shows you that extra kindness and pays attention and listens, it makes all the difference. It makes a difficult life less confusing."

Another patient, Muriel Chambers, 77, of the Laurels, Dartford, began using the centre seven years ago.

After a mastectomy, her spine was damaged by severe radiation she received from the cancer treatment. Now in remission, Ms Chambers said: "There are so many different activities you can do here. This centre is life saving.

"We all have such a happy time here, everybody gets on with everybody. Our sickness is never mentioned."

The group is run by two nurses, and caters for patients as young as 19. One of the nurses, Sue Pitcher, said: "I was working at the hospice and I thought there was a way we could give them even more support.

"It has been a success and the majority of patients that visit every week are reluctant to come through the door, but when they do, they really enjoy it.

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