There Is No Better Medicine Than Kindness

When 81 year old Nancy from Leek suffered a heartache in August of this year, she says it was the kindness of her community that helped pull her through. Now back on her feet after a remarkable recovery, ball room dancing is her tonic, and along with her husband Eddie, she is encouraging others to embrace ‘Strictly Fever’, crediting her dancing as her secret to staying well. 

In August of this year, Nancy Perkin, 81, from Leek, suffered a heart attack at home where she was rushed to the Royal Stoke Hospital, spending three days on critical care. Her beloved husband, Eddie, 84, of 61 years, waited anxiously for news of his wife whom he wasn’t able to visit due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

A keen ballroom and latin dancer since she retired in 2000, Nancy had always kept herself fit and healthy, but one morning after not returning from the kitchen with a cup of coffee in bed for Eddie, something she did every morning, Eddie began to feel concerned. Later he found Nancy collapsed and describes the devastating moment of not being able to wake his wife. 

“I reached down and I couldn’t see any signs she was breathing. I immediately phoned an ambulance and they arrived within a matter of minutes”, describes Eddie.

“My own heart was racing and I looked on helplessly. It was touch and go for a while. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to go with her and hold her hand was even harder.”

Eddie returned home to the apartment they both shared at the McCarthy and Stone Retirement Living development, Portland Grange in Leek, alone, and feeling lost without his wife by his side. After not being back more than five minutes, Eddie received a knock at the door. It was one of his neighbours who had kindly baked a pie for him to have for his dinner. 

“Such a small gesture”, said Eddie. “But it meant an awful lot. From that point onwards I knew I wasn’t alone.”

The community at Portland Grange – an exclusive development of privately owned apartments for the over-60s, rallied round Nancy and Eddie, sending cards, baking cakes and breads to make sure Eddie was eating right (Nancy was always the cook). 

“It was incredible really”, says Eddie. “12 months ago before we moved here, these people were strangers to us and now, besides our daughters and our family, they’re the ones we turn to. They’re in the same boat as us, we can relate to one another and especially during recent times it’s important to look out for each other.”

Following seven days in hospital Nancy returned home where she had to self-isolate during her early recovery. She recalls there being an outcry of cards, flowers, chocolates, phone calls and little notes that her neighbours would pop under her door. They would send her well wishes and would say how pleased they were to see her back where she belongs. 

“The kindness was overwhelming”, says Nancy. “The Covid-19 situation has knitted us altogether here at Portland Grange, so when I fell ill I think you could say that the same war-time spirit we’ve all been embracing since, was directed at me and my recovery for a while. 

“Everyone was wishing me better, and I think when I eventually did come home, it brought a lot of happiness and good cheer to people. It was good news and I think we all need some of that at the moment!”

Nancy and Eddie first decided to move to Portland Grange after the housework and maintenance to the garden became too much for them in their previous home – a three bedroom property in Cheddleton, five miles outside of Leek. They wanted to be able to move somewhere that would provide ease of living and would be low-maintenance giving them valuable time back to pursue their hobbies which largely revolved around dancing and going on dancing holidays. 

It was also important to them to be close to their two daughters. One of their daughters, Louise, lives just five minutes’ walk from Portland Grange making it easy for the couple to pop in on her during their daily walks. Receiving a devastating diagnosis of bone cancer two years ago, being able to support Louise and be there for her was number one on their list of requirements when it came to moving. 

Commenting on her recovery, Nancy says she feels “remarkably well” now and puts this down to “the kindness of others being better than any medicine.” 

She is especially thankful to the nurses on the critical care ward at the Royal Stoke. Shortly after, Nancy and Eddie sent them all chocolates as a thank you. “It was the least we could do”, says Nancy. 

They are also thankful to Angela, the House Manager at Portland Grange, whom they say has been brilliant through everything and for whom nothing is too much trouble. 

Whilst Nancy is back on her feet again, normal activities haven’t quite yet resumed for the couple who are desperate to visit the Bournemouth and Torquay social scene for a weekend of dancing – something they would join many other couples in doing before the lockdown. Despite this, Nancy and Eddie are now taking private dance lessons locally, once per week, with former professional dancers, Barbara and Robert Litchfield.

“We have been dancing for over 13 years”, says Nancy. “We didn’t want to let a little pandemic or a little stay in hospital get in the way of that. You’ve got to keep it fresh. As they say, use it or lose it, and I’d prefer to use it!”

Nancy and Eddie are also looking forward to the new series of BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. 

“I don’t know many of the faces in the line-up”, says Eddie. “But we shall be watching intently and our favourite dances have to be the Fox-Trot and of course, the Waltz.

“I would say to anyone our age that dancing is a magnificent tonic, and if you can, try a little bit. Whether you’re a couple, or you’re single, it keeps you moving. You don’t have to have lessons you can do it at home, in front of the TV, or just join in on a Saturday night with Tess and Claudia.” 

He continues: “Dancing lifts the spirits and for us we know we are in the safest possible place at Portland Grange. We are careful. We take precautions like anyone our age should. But we plan to dance through to Christmas together, and to take each new day as it comes.”