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Waikato hospital honours cancer patient’s legacy

Waikato Hospital’s Haematology and Oncology Ward hosted a special event on 29 August to honour the generosity of past patientAngela Sunkel who gave $100,000 to the ward through charity Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC).

"Over the past few years, Angela’s legacy has provided comfort to hundreds of patients and their families in the hospital. Her kindness has taken shape with little home comforts that make a big difference for people spending days, weeks, and months in the ward. It becomes a second home for many - and, as such, it should be homely," says Peter Fergusson, CEO of Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand.

Angela was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and with the help of the community raised money for medical treatment in America. Sadly, Angela passed away in Waikato hospital before she got a chance to board the plane. A trust was set up for the funds and transferred to LBC, it was called Angela’s fund and it was used to help other blood cancer patients.

Thanks to Angela, the cancer ward at Waikato hospital is now a brighter and more comfortable place. New furniture has been purchased for the lounge, including couches and armchairs. The walls are decorated with artwork and murals of stunning Waikato scenery. Young child visitors will be delighted to find a new play area in the lounge with colouring books and toys. Patients on the ward are enjoying new wheelchairs, SKY TV, better coffee, newspaper subscriptions and a massage therapist.

"You notice the improvements straight away, we are so grateful to LBC for this support and help. It instantly changes the way you feel, the imagery takes you away from the hospital environment," says charge nurse manager Claire.

"Patients can be on our ward for months for treatment and thanks to LBC and Angela’s Fund, we’ve been able to lift the décor for them. It’s a great feeling for all our staff too

"It’s been really cool because patients have been involved with the planning and decisions. We put out a wishlist to staff and patients, and Nature’s Pic to provide some photos of Waikato scenery. The patients got to vote on the images," she says.

"We have also purchased easy exercise equipment and are installing wardrobes some rooms - we aim to make the ward as homely as we can.

The celebration event and blessing was attended by many staff, patients, LBC representatives, and Angela’s family.

The day was also dedicated to staff wellbeing organised on the ward. "A lot of local businesses have put up their hand up to support us too, our team have been overwhelmed by their generosity from food, health and beauty vouchers to massages and more - we can’t thank them enough.

"The team have worked hard over the past 18 months to improve the ward for patients, it’s really improved morale and you can feel this lift in the team. We have also had an increase in staff as well as new roles, including associate charge nurse manager and a clinical coach role to support our junior workforce to grow", says Claire.

Peter Fergusson says, "I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Angela, but I have read the background and viewed many of the beautiful videos she created as a legacy of her enthusiasm for life. They are inspiring snapshots of a genuine person that made such an impact and a difference to people when she was with us - and today that marvellous gift continues through the funding that was entrusted to LBC’s care."

When Angela found out she had 12 months to live, she created this moving video to share her thoughts on life with the world:


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