14 September 2023

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Mike and Marita’s story

Seventy-seven-year-old petrolhead Mike shows no sign of hitting the brakes despite raising more than £50,000 with classic car show.

Driven by gratitude for all the care and support Mike Twomey and his late, beloved wife, Marita, received from the hospice, the couple have raised more than £50,000 for St Christopher’s running an annual classic car show for the last nine years – and Mike’s showing no signs of stopping any time soon.

This year’s event on 6 August, at Coolings, Knockholt, was particularly poignant as it came just three months after Marita died, aged 79. A 1935 Rolls Royce and a brand new Lamborghini were among the star attractions of the 144 cars on show.

Mike was moved to start supporting St Christopher’s soon after Marita was diagnosed in 2015, initially with Motor Neurone Disease, and then with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy as well, and the two of them started to meet fellow sufferers and carers at St Christopher’s Caritas House, Orpington.

“I’ve always been very passionate about the hospice,” adds Mike. “It’s the lovely empathy that we always got from all the staff and volunteers. That is so special, and you can just tell that it is a vocation.”

Over the eight years that Marita was under the care of St Christopher’s she and Mike accessed a wide range of different services.

As well as nurses, doctors and occupational therapists regularly visiting the couple at their home in Hayes, Marita and Mike enjoyed some of the therapies on offer at the hospice.

“We both really benefitted from the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. As a result, I hold mindfulness quite dear now. It really helped Marita deal with the stress of her condition too. If nothing else, it helped us appreciate the situation and prepare for it.

“Then, when Marita could no longer really look after herself, she loved coming into the hospice for some pampering. They would bathe her and wash her hair as well as do her nails. She really valued that.”

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Marita and Mike met back in the 1980s and married at Gretna Green in 1991. They had a son and a daughter and four grandchildren, and while Mike was employed in a number of fields, Marita worked as an accountant and company secretary for the same company until she was 70 and her health began to deteriorate.

Alongside his day job, Mike was pursuing his passion – restoring cars, including classic Bentleys and Jaguars. “Marita was very long suffering and put up with me being a bit of petrolhead. We’d go on rallies in Europe, and she’d be head down reading out the directions, so never really got a chance to enjoy the countryside when we were on the road!”

Apart from the support from St Christopher’s, Mike cared for Marita at home, right up until the point, when, with just days left, she was admitted to the inpatient unit in Sydenham.

“She spent the last five days of her life at St Christopher’s in her own room which was lovely and I was there nearly all the time – day and night. I was so grateful for the care they gave her and when she finally died they let me have two hours with her alone which was absolutely priceless.

“We’d had some experience of St Christopher’s, visiting friends and Marita’s father died at the hospice. It’s just so different from any hospital I’ve ever been to. It’s very laid back and not at all stressful and the staff were so thoroughly professional and caring. It just seems to be ingrained in them. The hospice is a happy place, even in sad times – it just uplifts you.”

Now 77, Mike is fully committed to continue supporting St Christopher in the best way he knows. The Classic Car Show is booked in for 4 August 2024, when we’re confident Mike and his fellow car enthusiasts will raise thousands of pounds again to help us to care for people like Marita.

If you would like to support Mike’s fundraising please visit his Just Giving page.

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