Twenty years ago, when Ingegerd Winblom was a youthful 54, she flew from her native Sweden to see the Joseph Weld Hospice after becoming intrigued about our specialist help for Motor Neurone Disease.
Now aged 74, but still sparkling with energy, she drives here every year to work in our inpatient unit, spending seven weeks working here and seeing the many friends she has made around Dorset over the years. “I decided to retire this year,” she says. “But I’m still working.”
A matron by profession in Stockholm, she had been reading up on MND after her best friend’s husband was diagnosed with the disease.
The couple met the brilliant physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who has MND, in London and met Weldmar’s specialist while at a conference in Scotland and told Ingegerd about it, which piqued her interest.
She said: “They came home and told me about it and I thought, that is very, very good. I said to myself, I should look to go there.
“At that time hospices were not very common in Sweden. I asked the nursing director at the time, Pam Homer, if I could visit and have a look. ‘Please do’, she said, ‘we can have a little talk together’. I came here and stayed at the Casterbridge Hotel and the moment I walked into the hospice I had this nice, warm feeling. I like every bit of it here, the way you talk to the patients, how you treat patients, the warm atmosphere”.
Ingegard decided aged 17 she never wanted to marry and have children, and instead devoted herself to nursing and travelling the world – her favourite country is South America, favourite continent Asia. She is a volunteer nurse for the Red Cross, and raises money for Baltic countries such as Latvia and Estonia to provide medical supplies, travelling there to train people how to use the equipment they provide.
“I’m a nurse from up to down,” she says.
She is godmother to three children: “Those are my family” – and is always on the go even when not working, enjoying her passions of music and theatre, particularly opera and classical.
But of all the places in all the world, Joseph Weld Hospice holds a unique place in her heart. “Here is very special,” she said. “I’ve been all over the world but as soon as you step in here it is a very special feeling.”