“SHE was an amazing lady with a wicked sense of humour who was loved by all” – just one of the many tributes paid to Ida Parkinson – the first ever Macmillan nurse in the county who passed away last Thursday, August 25, aged 84.
Ida, of Astwood Bank, was revolutionary in her care of cancer patients, believing people had the right to die in their own homes surrounded by their loved ones rather than in the sterile atmosphere of a hospital and cared for by strangers.
Despite this she was instrumental in setting up the Primrose Hospice in Bromsgrove – a veritable home from home for cancer patients – and after retiring continued as an advocate for Macmillan and cancer care, working as a tireless fundraiser.
In 2011 she was awarded the Douglas Macmillan Award – the highest honour Macmillan Cancer Support can bestow on a volunteer – and at the time of her death was life president of the Redditch and District Macmillan Committee.
Born a leap year baby on February 29, 1932, in Clones, Co. Monaghan in Ireland, her father registered her birthday as March 1 in case there were any issues on being born on a date that only occurs every four years.
Caring for people was in Ida’s blood and she ran away from home to fulfil her dream of becoming a nurse, doing her SRCN training in Belfast before doing her SRN training at Halifax General Hospital where she met her husband, Douglas.
The couple had three daughters, Alison, Melanie and Wendy and moved to Redditch where Ida, working as a district nurse, became the first Macmillan nurse for what was then the county of Hereford and Worcester.
Here she began to make a massive difference to palliative care, firmly believing that people should die with dignity and love in their own homes surrounded by their loved ones rather than in a hospital. It was an approach that has now been adopted nationwide.
Her eldest daughter Alison remembers her mum having the biggest of hearts: “I remember one Christmas she had gone to give a poorly man an injection; his wife had burnt their chicken dinner and realising it was probably going to be their last Christmas together, she rushed into our house, tore the leg off the turkey, said ‘don’t ask’ and rushed off to give it to them.
“And we had all sorts of people come and sit down to dinner with us, it was just mum’s way.”
Melanie followed her mum into nursing. She said: “The chosen career path of Macmillan nursing was, to her, a true vocation. Her absolute dedication ensured that every member of the family had good memories of their loved ones passing. She continued this work during her retirement – listening to, helping and supporting her many many friends. Her motto was ‘you have two ears and one mouth – use them in that ratio’.
“Family was extremely important to Mum and she was so very proud of us all – her children, grandchildren, and most recently, her great grand-children.”
Wendy added: “Everyone loved her, I sometimes think there wasn’t a soul who didn’t know her – we’d go on a one hour shopping trip and it would take two hours. She was an amazing lady with a wicked sense of humour and she was brilliant with the fund raising for Macmillan. The house would be coming down at Christmas with the weight of all the cards from friends, family and wellwishers.”
A spokesperson from Macmillan said: “Ida Parkinson has been a valued, long standing supporter of Macmillan over her lifetime both professionally and personally. As the first Macmillan nurse appointed in Worcestershire she was responsible for setting up the Community Service in Redditch and Bromsgrove and then later at the Alexandra Hospital Redditch.
“As a Macmillan volunteer and supporter, she held the title of Honorary President of the Redditch Macmillan Cancer Support Committee but acted as a working, ‘hands-on’ President until the very end of her life. Ida was a great communicator and she touched the lives of patients and their families throughout the local community.
“Her dedication to the support of people affected by a cancer diagnosis has been immense and unwavering. As a result, she was awarded the Douglas Macmillan Award, the highest award which Macmillan can bestow. Macmillan Cancer Support would like to express their sincere thanks for a lifetime of commitment to the charity and extend their condolences to her family and friends at this sad time.”
Ida is survived by Alison, Melanie and Wendy, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Douglas died in 2003.
A service of thanksgiving for her life will be held at Redditch Crematorium on September 9 at 2.15pm.