Monday 25 December 2017

Stamford Hospital’s Christmas mystery

Every year for 57 years, anonymous man sends staff a “thank you” Christmas card. And it is a man, at least that much is known for sure, writes Martin Chalakoski in The Vintage News. Read on: 

In almost every hospital, near its entrance and right next to the reception desk, there exists a box mainly reserved for displeased patients and their complaints or comments of any sort they wish to share about the care (or the lack of) they’ve received by the medical personnel. Boxes almost always full of letters that perhaps nobody ever reads.
Photo Credit North West Anglia Foundation Trust
That being said, however, there is no box for those who wish to say thanks and express their gratitude when medical workers came to their aid–when that aid was needed the most and urgency was called for. Times in which, thanks to some medical staff and their dedication, these people survived. But it seems as if thanks do not exist in the healthcare vocabulary, and gratitude is the rarest of expressions in the medical world. Probably because care and attention is their duty and they are obliged to provide us with it. But still, we do say thanks to the pizza guy.

It seems that one former very grateful patient didn’t find a box, but instead found the address and sent a “thank you” Christmas card to the Stamford Hospital in Lincolnshire, in England, to express his most sincere appreciation for the staff and the care he received there. And he has been sending the same anonymous letter to the same address ever since.

Photo Credit:North West Anglia Foundation Trust
This man created a heartwarming mini-mystery back when his first Christmas card arrived at the hospital in 1960, which only grew larger and larger over the years. And it is a man, at least that much is known for sure, because the Exeter Ward to where the letter is addressed, now closed, used to be an all-male ward.

Although the “thank you” is anonymous, the card which contains it every single year finds its way to the hands of the receptionist. “It would be great to find who is still so grateful after all these years,” says Sue Brooks, the matron at Stamford Hospital who has received the majority of the letters, a view shared among everyone working there.

“This has been a great mystery for staff at Stamford Hospital since 1960 who are eager to find out the mystery sender of the Christmas card” she adds, “so they can too say thank you and Merry Christmas back at him.” But, sadly, they have no real way of tracking him down, for all they know about this gracious mystery man is the postmark from where the card is being sent: Chelmsford in Essex.

The intrigue travels all the way to the very top of the management offices of the North West Anglia National Health Service Foundation Trust, assigned to run Stamford Hospital and its activities. This year a spokesperson of the NWA foundation, after the card arrived as usual a few days before Christmas, announced officially that “the Christmas card appears every year without fail on the Matron’s desk at Stamford Hospital and the patient must have had good cause to be grateful for the treatment he received.”

Stamford Hospital postcard 1911
“Members of staff who worked at the hospital in 1960 and the current staff as well are all intrigued about the card and why he feels the need to say thank you after all these years,” says the spokesperson, speaking for all who work or ever worked at this place, especially the nursing staff employed at the Exeter Ward of the hospital in 1960.

The person at the source of this unsolved mystery, and for whom the “thank you” is probably a very precious Christmas gift and an annual reminder about a job well done, writes in the card:  “From a very grateful patient in 1960! And still going strong.”

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