NICHS | Little Things Appeal
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At Christmas, it’s the little things that matter most.

So many little things go into making the perfect Christmas. Most of us can’t imagine Christmas without them.

But sadly, the reality for many people living with a chest, heart or stroke illness is they won’t get to enjoy doing these little things this year, or maybe ever again. 

Many of those affected are left with debilitating psychological symptoms and often physical disabilities, leaving them unable to do many of the little things we take for granted in our lives.

Our Christmas advert tells the story of one such person - Rob, who after having a stroke, is living with reduced mobility in his left arm. He comes along to our PREP programme, and thanks to the physical support he receives from our Care Team, he's able to do one of the 'little things' that has become a challenge for him - wrapping a thoughtfully chosen Christmas gift for his wife.

You can watch our Christmas TV Advert and read the real life stories which inspired it below.

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Philip's Story

"It’s often the little things that get to me. I can’t carry a cup of coffee upstairs. I can’t tie my shoelaces. Even putting toothpaste on my toothbrush is an issue.”

Little Things Appeal Philip

“At Christmas, there are lots of little things that I can’t do. Putting up decorations on the tree, wrapping presents or writing cards are all a no go. Carrying shopping or delivering presents is also out of the question, as I couldn’t carry them and walk with my walking stick at the same time.”

Philip, aged 28, from Carryduff, suffered a stroke in 2012 when he was just 19. He lay alone on his landing for 10 hours before he was found and taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital. He was told he had suffered a haemorrhagic stroke due to a congenital condition which could have happened anytime.

Philip was left with weakness on his left side and was told he would never walk, move his left arm and fingers or, in fact, work again. He says, “I refused to believe them. I was determined I was going to get better. And, eventually, I walked out of the hospital.” Now, Philip uses a walking stick to get around. He was hit by another setback months later when he suffered a seizure. “It really hit me hard. I didn’t sleep for a month; I was so worried it would happen again.”

After his seizure, Philip started attending NICHS’s Young Stroke Group. “Being part of the group really increased my confidence. Speaking to other people in the same boat really helped, as did the activities.”

“But now, even though I know I can’t turn back the clock, and there are still some little things I will never be able to do, I make the most of what I can do.”

Lisa's Story

"In the winter, I can’t button up the children’s coats for them or tie their shoes. As a mum, it’s tough when there are some little things you have to rely on others for.”

Little Things Appeal Lisa

The 4th March 2015, started out as a typical day for Lisa. A busy mum to toddler Conor and pregnant with her second child, Orla, Lisa had gone out for a jog in Belfast where she lives. But without warning she collapsed.

Two weeks later, she woke up in the Royal Victoria Hospital, having suffered a stroke called a subarachnoid haemorrhage, (bleeding on the brain’s surface caused by a ruptured brain aneurysm). She was only 37. Lisa spent a difficult six months in hospital.

Following her stroke, her left arm was left permanently paralysed, and she had to learn to walk again.

Today, six years on, she can walk short distances with the help of a walking stick, but more challenging trips are out and are just one of the little things she can no longer enjoy.

“I can’t go out to the shops at Christmas.” Lisa explains, “I can ask other people to help buy the gifts for the kids. I can give them a list. But I can’t go and pick out any little extra surprises that I’ve spotted out and about and say, ‘Oh, Orla or Conor would love that’. It’s just not the same, so it does make me sad.”

Lisa was put in touch with our NICHS Young Stroke Activity Group. Lisa says, “Everyone was so inspiring and supportive. Even though there are still some little things I can’t do because of my stroke, meeting others who were dealing with the same problems and learning how to overcome them has helped so much. The motivation and encouragement I get from the other group members have played a huge part in my recovery.”

Mary's Story

"When I first got home from the hospital, I was in a wheelchair. I couldn’t tend to the farm like I used to. I love spending time in nature and with my animals – those little things are so important to me.”

Little Things Appeal Mary

Mary from Newtownhamilton had a stroke in December 2011, just weeks before Christmas, and went on to have two further strokes shortly after. She spent two months in hospital and received physiotherapy but has been left with right-sided weakness.

Mary found out about our rehabilitation service PREP, from her local NICHS Stroke Family Support coordinator.

Mary says, “I’m so glad and grateful there was someone there to show me what to do. I pushed on. I worked very hard at keeping up my exercises. Thankfully I did. When I came home, two months after my stroke, I couldn’t walk. If it hadn’t been for PREP, I might still be in a wheelchair.

“The programme taught me to listen to my body, and now I rest when I need to. Because of that, I can still live a very active life. I’m back to being able to look after and train my sheepdogs which I love. I can drive, and I even went to Balmoral Show this year. But it’s the little things like having to learn to adapt and pace myself; after a day out, I know I need to rest to be able to face tomorrow, and that’s how I live now.”

“I also don’t have the same concentration as I would have done. I couldn’t cook a Christmas dinner now like I used to do. I can cook for myself but having to cook for several people would make me nervous. Having a lot of people in the house and too much noise would affect me as well.”

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1 in 4 people in Northern Ireland are living with a chest, heart or stroke illness.

Little Things Appeal Zoe

How would you feel having to always rely on others to do the littlest things for you?

My name is Zoe Campbell, and I am a Senior Care Services Co-ordinator here at Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke. Over the years in my job, I have supported hundreds of families whose lives have been devastated by a chest, heart or stroke illness. For these families, everything changed in an instant and life as they knew it before ended. It never gets any easier, hearing someone talk about how their life has been shattered by a chest, heart or stroke illness.

However, I’ve also seen first-hand the turning point our support can be for those families when they need it most. I’ve seen so many people’s lives transformed for the better after completing one of our support programmes. They have renewed hope that life and the little things can still be enjoyed fully with their condition.

It costs just £20  for one of our Family Support Co-ordinators to make a home visit to a local family affected by chest, heart or stroke illness.

A gift of just £20 or whatever you can afford could help fund the cost of that first home visit or support call. 

It can provide a listening ear for fears and concerns or give practical support and advice. It will also provide a full assessment of the services we can offer to get each person we help started on their road to recovery.

For these families it’s the little things that matter most. Your gift could make an incredible difference this Christmas, and that’s why I’m asking if you can help support us through our Christmas appeal.

From physical rehab to help regain strength and getting back to doing those little things better, to holistic support to restore the confidence and spark for life that their illness stole away, your gift can help show that life can be full of the little things again. 

Please support our Christmas Appeal and make a donation today to help change a life. 

Your gift will support those whose lives have been broken by chest, heart or stroke illnesses and bring back joy beyond Christmas.

Thank you, and Happy Christmas!

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  • At least 80p in every £1 raised or donated is spent delivering our life-changing care and prevention services, as well as funding local research into these illnesses.

    How does NICHS spend donations?

    Thanks to our loyal supporters we raised more than £3.35 Million last year to support our programmes across Northern Ireland.

    £1.39 Million was spent on delivering our care support programmes, £576k was spent on delivering our prevention programmes and £736k on local research into chest, heart and stroke related conditions.

    In other words, for every £1 raised, around 80p, went directly to funding our care and prevention programmes as well as research to help fight chest, heart and stroke conditions.

    How you can help

    Over 335,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with chest, heart and stroke conditions, and these illnesses are responsible for 37% of all adult deaths every year. That's almost 6,000 people. Every day across Northern Ireland 11 people will suffer a stroke and 17 will have a heart attack.

    With your support we are able to continue our vital care and prevention work across the community, caring for people who are living with chest, heart and stroke conditions and helping prevent people becoming ill in the first place.


    Support us today and help us lead the fight against chest, heart and stroke illnesses across Northern Ireland.

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  • What is Gift Aid?

    Gift Aid is a scheme that allows charities to reclaim tax on a donation made by a UK taxpayer, which means your donations will be worth 25% more to us at no extra cost to you. If you Gift Aid your donations we can claim back from the government 25p for every £1 you donate to Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke.

    This additional income really does make a big difference, so please don't forget to Gift Aid donations if you are a UK tax payer.

    You could make your donation to us NICHS worth even more!

    Whether you are making a cash donation, setting up a regular gift, or asking friends and family to sponsor you in an event, your donation could be worth an extra 25% thanks to the Gift Aid donations scheme. Last year, we were able to reclaim over £74,000 through donations that were gift aided which contributed towards our care and prevention programmes.

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    How it works:

    Under the Gift Aid scheme, if you are a UK taxpayer, the Government allows charities to reclaim 25p of every pound you give – and it doesn’t cost you an extra penny! With your permission NICHS can re-claim this tax on your behalf.

    Once you’ve read the Gift Aid statement and are happy you can comply with it, simply tick the Gift Aid box to say you agree that NICHS can reclaim tax for you. If you’d prefer to complete a paper version of our Gift Aid Declaration form and post it into our office, you can download a pdf version by clicking on the button below.

    If you’d like to find out how much more your donation would be if it was Gift Aided, just use the calculator below.

    Click here to download a Gift Aid Declaration

    What we need to claim Gift Aid

    • Your full name and home address
    • The donation amount you are giving. We can accept cash also.
    • We can't claim Gift Aid on donations from company accounts. The donation must be your own money and not the proceeds of a collection.
    • For you to confirm that you pay income tax or capital gains tax which at least equals the amount NICHS and other charities and community amateur sports clubs will claim in the appropriate tax year (6 April one year to 5 April the next). This is currently 25p for every £1 you give.
    • Using the declaration form, we can claim Gift Aid on all your donations in the last 4 years and all future donations.
    • Once you have become a Gift Aid donor, please let us know if you stop paying tax or if you change your name/address so that we can update our records.
  • If you would like any further help, or have any questions, please contact Supporter Care on 028 9026 6743 or supportercare@nichs.org.uk

  • The work that we do is only possible because of the generous donations that we receive from our supporters. You are very important to us. Thank you so much for helping us in the care and prevention of chest, heart and stroke illnesses across Northern Ireland.

    When you make a donation to Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, we promise that :

    • Your donation will be used wisely, responsibly and for the purpose given.
    • If a donation is made for a specific purpose we will honour that request.
    • We will safeguard your personal information in line with Data Protection principles.
    • We will communicate with you in accordance with your wishes.
    • Queries or complaints will be responded to as quickly as possible.
    • Administration costs will be kept to a minimum.
    • Your support will be acknowledged and we will keep you updated about how you are helping people who suffer from chest, heart or stroke illnesses.
    • Fundraisers will respect you as a donor and will be transparent in their dealings with you at all times.
    • Fundraisers will work to the highest professional standards and will adhere to the practices and guidelines as directed by the Institute of Fundraising.
    • Where donations are solicited indirectly, i.e. by 3rd party agencies, we recognise that donors have the right to request information about them.

    If you have any questions, please contact Supporter Care on 028 9026 6743 or supportercare@nichs.org.uk.

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