Recently, a keen fundraiser and St Luke’s Lottery winner visited the specialist unit at Turnchapel to collect his £1,000 cheque and enjoy a special cream tea.

Lesley Coulton, Regular Giving and Lottery Manager, and Paola Simoneschi, Communications Officer, had the pleasure of meeting retired stonemason Raymond Shipton, who shared with them treasured memories of Tricia, his beloved wife of 58 years, who was cared for at Derriford and passed away in the summer. Raymond’s niece, Susan Van Neck, was a patient at St Luke’s many years before.

Over the tea and scones, Raymond spoke movingly about Tricia and the life they shared. “Tricia was a very, very special person and we had the most wonderful life together,” he said. “We met when we were really young. In fact Tricia was just nine when I first saw her – I was delivering the newspaper to her house,” he said. “Later, we attended a youth club together and school in Horrabridge, and we were inseparable.”

The couple married after Raymond completed National Service and went on to have three daughters. In later life came the joy of eight grandchildren, and the family continue to be very close.

Keen baker Raymond has been President of a Plymouth Lions Club twice. The Club has generously raised money for St Luke’s, and Raymond remains a very active member.

“I’m so pleased Raymond was able to visit us to receive his cheque,” said Lesley. “It was a real privilege to meet him and particularly special to hear his memories of Tricia.”

In his gratitude for receiving the Lottery cheque, Raymond presented Lesley with a cheque for £100 for St Luke’s.

Inspirational Espi - Esperanza Merry

 

Inspirational Espi - Esperanza Merry

Among St Luke’s fantastic volunteers there’s a special person who’s packed an impressive amount into her young life and is a great inspiration to all around her, whatever their age!

A familiar face at the specialist unit at Turnchapel, where she gives her time to help on reception and serve in the Driftwood Cafe, 17-year-old Esperanza Merry was recently named Volunteer of the Month by Improving Lives Plymouth. Meeting Espi, as she likes to be known, it’s easy to see why – her enthusiasm for giving back to St Luke’s, which cared for her grandfather at the end of his life, bubbles over.

I was incredibly close to my grandfather and losing him was very hard,” said Espi, who is half Peruvian and grew up in Plymouth. “I wanted to honour him, and volunteering at St Luke’s is an important part of that. Being on reception and working in the Cafe means I frequently meet families visiting a loved one, and I can really relate to some of what they must be feeling.”

Espi is not a ‘typical teenager’. By the age of 11 she had competed in – and won – over 40 tennis tournaments worldwide. However, in 2011 a life-threatening infection in her hip led to septic arthritis and not only did this impact her professional tennis career, she was expected to be in wheelchair for the rest of her life. With the help of surgery, physiotherapy and her own grit and determination though, she gradually progressed to walking on crutches and then completely unsupported, although she still has to deal with constant pain.

Inspirational Espi made her mark along the way, becoming the world junior champion in wheelchair tennis. Although it was a huge part of her life, she has since retired from the sport to follow other interests. As part of this, she is studying business at City College.

Listening to Espi, it’s clear she is very happy to juggle her studies and volunteering. It’s also obvious that this is someone who relishes a challenge!

Due to my experience of hospitals, I’m not phased by the hospice environment but volunteering on reception was daunting at first,” she said. “I want to work on my weaker areas though, and this is really helping to build my confidence. Plus, I’m surrounded by people who are an inspiration to me – the staff, fellow volunteers and the patients and their families.”

If Espi has inspired you to volunteer with St Luke’s – or to speak with friends or family about volunteering – the new year could be a great time to start!

Find out more here: https://www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/volunteering/

Christmas in their words - Letters from our nurses

Christmas in their words - Letters from our nurses

 

Our special nurses are central to the care St Luke’s provides 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including over the Christmas period. But how does it feel to be providing such essential care at this time of year, and how does Christmas impact their patients and families?

Karen Thorrington is part of the team at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, where we have 12 beds for patients with with complex needs that are proving difficult to manage in other settings.

Karen said: “It’s an extremely special time of year, especially for our patients as for many it will be their last. We try to create as many happy memories as possible as it’s important they get to experience everything they can with the time they have left. We make sure there’s a really jolly atmosphere on the unit. It is bittersweet, but us being happy at work helps our patients and their families. There’s definitely more laughter than tears. We remain sensitive to everyone’s needs, decorating the unit towards the middle of December as too early can be a reminder for many that they may not see Christmas. Around that time, staff can be spotted with tinsel in their hair, wearing Christmas-themed tights – often a talking point!

The best way to describe what we do at Christmas is to give people the gift of time – time to open presents, time for a meal together, time for sharing stories and laughter. There’s nothing more important than time for those who are spending their last days with us. Sometimes we have to make the decision to bring Christmas forward as we did for a patient and her family last year. The catering team provided a fantastic buffet, including special treats for the patient’s grandchildren.

The family brought in their ukuleles and played Christmas carols for hours. There was a real party atmosphere – lots of laughing and singing. It was a very special occasion and she talked about it for days after.”

James Mills is part of the St Luke’s team based at Derriford Hospital. The team offers specialist advice and support for any hospital inpatient with a progressive life limiting illness.

James said: “We provide a palliative care service to the whole hospital seven days a week, including over the Christmas period. We work closely with staff and patients on Brent ward (oncology), who are very good at creating a positive and festive atmosphere. Christmas can be an emotionally charged time for people, and of course this is even more true for patients and families faced with a life limiting illness. There’s an awareness that this might be their last Christmas together. A nurse in our team spoke recently of a patient signing Christmas cards now so her family have one to open from her this year. We also see patients and families bringing their Christmas forward in order to be able to celebrate with loved ones.

Personally, Christmas evokes memories of those I’ve cared for over the past year, those who’ve died and how their families must be feeling during this time. As a team we have a heightened awareness of their situation, and we try to keep a sense of normality and remain upbeat for them.”

Jenny Evans works with our Crisis Team, which provides terminally ill patients with a 72-hour window of specialist care at home, including those in residential and nursing homes, at a time of crisis.

Jenny said: “Working over the Christmas in healthcare feels different to most other professions, as we often miss out on our own family celebrations, which can be sad. This doesn’t compare to the feelings our patients and families are experiencing though. It’s a great privilege to be involved in a patient’s care, particularly at this time of year.

While we can’t change the fact that the person is dying, we can help make it as dignified and comfortable as possible, providing holistic care, as we do all year around. A particular memory that stands out is from 2005, when I spent Christmas Eve helping facilitate a discharge home from hospital. The man was in his early 40s, with children. He was in the last days of life and both he and his family were desperate he should get home.

The patient’s wife was very much in denial of his prognosis, thinking he was going to get better. I spent lots of time with her, giving support. We did manage to get him home late in the evening, and cared for him in his own bed. The night staff then also spent time with him and the family, and managed to gain symptom control. Although he was unresponsive on Christmas Day, he was much more comfortable, which enabled his family to have one last Christmas with him at home. He died peacefully on Boxing Day, surrounded by them. While this was a very tricky situation, it was wonderful we were able to make a difference so that he was with loved ones and able to see the hundreds of decorations his children had made. The house looked like Santa’s grotto!”

Julie Hicks works as part of the St Luke’s at home team, which offers specialist advice, care and support to people with progressive life limiting illnesses in the comfort of their own home.

Julie said: “When someone needs our care at home, it is understandably a difficult time for both them and their loved ones, regardless of the time of year. I’ve noticed though, that in the run-up to Christmas they can be experiencing the strain of extra concerns. Christmas is a special time of celebration, but for some people with life limiting conditions and their families, it can be a time of reflection and great sadness.

Frequently, taking the time to help them make a plan can alleviate some of their anxiety and enable them to focus more on having the best possible Christmas. The Community Team continues to provide the same supportive service whatever the season.”

This year at St Luke’s we celebrate our 35th anniversary and what better way than to thank the people who make our care possible – the staff and volunteers.

Earlier this week our senior managers hit the offices and wards to say thank you, delivering a few suprises on the way. With over 300 staff and almost 1,000 volunteers split across four sites at Turnchapel, Crownhill, Plympton and Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, it has certainly kept them fit.

At St Luke’s we strive to be an employer of distinction and choice, after all our staff and volunteers are what make our care possible.

From nursing, social care and occupational therapy; to finance, administration, fundraising and maintenance – all our roles play a key part in helping us deliver care to 3,400 patients every year.

If you are considering your next career move, why not register for our job alerts. Who knows, next year we could be thanking you.