After years of ill health, Pauline from Chorley in Lancashire wanted to give something back by playing The Health Lottery. But never in a million years did she expect to win the £25,000 jackpot after matching five correct numbers earlier this month.
In fact, it wasn’t until the 71 year old retired teacher and her husband Steve, 70, also a retired teacher, travelled to London to be presented with the winning cheque by Health Lottery CEO Lebby Eyres, that she finally believed it was real.
‘When I first got the call to say I had won, I thought it was a scam,’ Pauline said. ‘Steve looked up the phone number and address online and he said ‘You’ve done it, you’ve won!’, but even then I still couldn’t believe it. I’ve never won anything before!’
To celebrate, the couple - who have been married for 23 years – spent the night in a suite at the plush Tower Bridge Hotel and toasted their win with a bottle of Laurent-Perrier rosé champagne.
But life hasn’t always been so sweet for Pauline. The great-grandmother was forced into early retirement after having open heart surgery in 2005 to repair a faulty valve. She’s also had a hysterectomy, has asthma and hearing difficulties, and shattered the bones in her left shoulder following a fall last year, which left her needing more surgery and metal plates fitted in her arm.
Pauline’s run of health problems – which has also included surgery to remove her appendix and gallbladder – has meant she’s no longer able to travel abroad due to the extortionate cost of insurance, and she struggles to walk far without her stick.
Kind-hearted Pauline decided to start playing The Health Lottery as her way of helping the thousands of charities which do vital work in supporting our health service.
‘I’ve always played it,’ she said. ‘I’ve had so many issues with my health and I saw it as a way of giving a little something back. I don’t play the same numbers, they are a lucky dip, and I rarely check them as I don’t ever expect to win.’ She added, ‘If this can happen to me, it can happen to anybody!’
Pauline now plans to treat her daughter Mandy, her grandchildren Megan and Jamie, her great-grandchildren and Steve’s children and grandchildren from his previous marriage.
The money means so much to Pauline, who gave birth to Mandy aged 17 and spent much of her life as a single mum, often struggling to make ends meet.
She put her dream of becoming a teacher on hold to look after Mandy, only to become the deputy head of a special education school later in life.
‘Mandy always came first,’ Pauline said. ‘There were times when money was a struggle and I would feel guilty if I bought myself something, so I never did. Now I can treat her and the rest of the family and I don’t have to worry. I’ve got that little nest egg now and it’s made me feel safe.’
Despite her big win, self-confessed bargain hunter Pauline has vowed not to make any lavish spends. She will continue to drive around in her 2004 Toyota Yaris and has no plans for a big shopping spree.
‘I will still shop for my clothes on Amazon and look for the best prices,’ she laughed. ‘I often find the clothes are very good quality, so why would I want to spend more elsewhere?’
And now she has won the jackpot, will Pauline carry on playing The Health Lottery every week?
‘Oh absolutely!’ she said.
‘She won’t be cancelling her Direct Debit,’ Steve chimed in. ‘You never know, she might win again!’