You’re never too old to make new best friends – as Margaret Davies, Ena Powell and Mollie Hodges can all testify!

Strangers to each other when first admitted to our specialist unit in March, in a matter of days these lovely ladies in their 80s and 90s formed such a strong and joyous bond on the ward that they quickly became known to themselves – and us – as our very own Golden Girls. And, just as with the lead characters in the hit TV show of the 80s, the chemistry between them is sparkling.

While each of our terrific trio has been receiving St Luke’s care to help relieve their pain, they have found comfort that goes way beyond the physical, thanks to the empathy and affection between them – not to mention the infectious humour they share. All of which has not only lifted their spirits at a difficult time but brought reassurance to their families that they’re being looked after in a safe, supportive environment where there is more laughter than tears.

Mollie, from Peverell, said: “I came in not wanting any further treatment, and these ladies who I call best friends have convinced me to have it. For the nurses to know we would gel so well together, they must be telepathic!“

Margaret, a former teacher at Dunstone Primary School who lives in Elburton, said: “Never did I think a hospice could feel so heavenly. St Luke’s has taken the fear out of cancer – they’ve got all my treatment right and I’m no longer in pain, but it’s so much more than that. Thanks to the fantastic staff and Ena and Mollie, it’s been a happy time. There’s been so much laughter – they’ve had me in stitches!”

Ena, who has since returned to her home said: “I was apprehensive about coming into a hospice. I never thought I would make such incredible friendships. That moment of having the photo taken of us all together in the hospice grounds overlooking the sea is one I will cherish forever.”

Losing a loved one is always really difficult. We understand how important it is for you to be able to remember your lost loved one, whether they were cared for by St Luke’s or not, and we realise more than ever that when someone special has died, it is powerful and precious memories that bring comfort and help us continue to feel connected to them.

With this in mind, we would like to share a story with you about Scott, a volunteer and friend who played a huge part in our Fundraising Team and will forever be in our hearts.

We were first graced with Scott’s presence back in 2018 when he applied to become a volunteer within the Fundraising Team, after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. His expertise and skills in sales and marketing made him the perfect candidate and a vital asset to our team. He threw himself into everything a hundred percent, particularly our Men’s Day Out event as he was very well connected within the brewing industry.

He was a joy to have around, telling stories and speaking so fondly in the office of his three girls, ‘Mrs Prideaux and the Pridettes’, Sarah and his two daughters Alex and Olivia.

Remembering Dad

“Dad’s volunteering at St Luke’s was his complete saviour. It gave him structure and the ability to help others, which in life was his ultimate mission. The role unintendedly was built for him, was flexible around his needs, gave him a focus and became a massive part of his life, which he lived to the full.

“He was always such an outgoing and sociable person who knew and remembered everyone. Wherever we were, he would always see somebody he knew – even abroad in Portugal, where he bumped into an old friend and insisted on having lunch together. He was so supportive and always wanted the best for us.

“We were used to hospital visits with Dad, but our world was turned upside down when he was admitted during the first lockdown last year. The support from the St Luke’s team who co-ordinated his treatment at the hospital was a real source of comfort to him, particularly when there were multiple departments involved. The doctors and nurses became both ours and Dad’s friends, and because visiting became challenging due to the pandemic, what we couldn’t provide was there from St Luke’s.

“Life’s just not as fun without Dad around. We really miss him – it’s like a light has gone out, but we find that talking about our memories together makes him still feel present in our lives.

“To us, St Luke’s isn’t just a charity looking after poorly people in a hospice. It’s about a community coming together, and our community went above and beyond.”

How you can get involved

This Spring, we would like to invite you to dedicate a sunflower in our virtual garden in memory of someone you’ve lost. Radiating cheer and symbolising longevity, we have chosen sunflowers as they capture the nature of the memories we treasure of the special people no longer with us – heart-warming, comforting and enduring.

Share your favourite picture or your sunniest story – all while knowing that you are helping us continue to provide our support to families in the community- now and in the future.

As a thank you for your donation, we will send you a packet of sunflower seeds so you can grow your own flowers as a symbol of remembrance. You can use the seeds from the beautiful flower to grow them year on year, and as you see them bloom in your garden, we hope you will recollect beautiful memories.

 

We are dedicated to looking after terminally ill people of all backgrounds, so we are piloting a scheme to enhance its end of life care for patients who have given service to their country in the armed forces.

The End of Life Military Compassion project recently launched by St Luke’s will help ensure the community is a kinder place for both current military personnel and veterans whose time is running short, and for their families, too.

With grant funding from the Armed Forces Covenant, the initiative has evolved from our collaboration with Plymouth City Council and other local organisations which established Plymouth as England’s first Compassionate City for people at end of life and those who care for them.

Recognising that patients from military backgrounds tend to feel better understood, and more at ease, when the care and support they receive acknowledges the service they have given their country, and the language and routines with which they are familiar, we are dedicating some of our own resources to help better identify those patients who would benefit.

Understanding, too, that receiving a terminal diagnosis can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, we are using the grant to recruit volunteers from military backgrounds, providing them with bespoke training so that they are equipped to give befriending support to terminally ill current and former servicemen and women and their families.

Many of St Luke’s own highly skilled staff come from military families or have themselves served in the armed forces. As well as harnessing their knowledge and experience to develop the pilot project, we have drawn on the expertise of charities dedicated to supporting current and former forces personnel, including the Plymouth Veterans and Families Hub, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and Help for Heroes, all of whom welcome the initiative.

George Lillie, Director of Clinical Services and Deputy Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We work with our community, in partnership with others, to achieve dignity, comfort and choice for people affected by life-limiting illnesses. The service we provide is about so much more than hands-on medical care – it is about getting to know our patients so that we can focus on what matters most to them, helping them make the most of their time with loved ones.

“We know that people respond best when they feel listened to and understood, and we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure this. The Armed Forces Covenant grant will help us meet the specific needs of terminally ill military staff and veterans, and their families. We will also share our learning with other organisations throughout the communities we serve across Plymouth and surrounding areas so that these patients feel better supported by all in the last months, weeks and days of their lives.”

Plymouth’s Mark Ormrod, the former Royal Marine Commando who sustained life-changing injuries while serving in Afghanistan and is now an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, performance coach and award-winning author, is a patron of St Luke’s.

Championing the End of Life Military Compassion project, Mark said: “I have such respect for the team at St Luke’s, who always give their care with such kindness and sensitivity. Knowing that they are going the extra mile for forces families by developing their service in a way that is bespoke for them is fantastic. Not only will this help ensure terminally ill military men and women feel recognised for their service and die with dignity, but that their loved ones are better supported, too.”

For further information, please contact us on 01752 964250 or email education@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

St Luke’s nurse, James, is taking his compassion for terminally ill patients to new heights, leaping from a plane to raise funds for the specialist hospice care that ensures they live well to the end of their lives.

On Sunday 25 April Clinical Nurse Specialist James Mills, part of our team team based at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, is taking part in an exhilarating sponsored tandem skydive from 15,000ft.

Recognising the impact of the pandemic on the vital income we would normally have generated through our charity shops and mass fundraising events, such as Men’s Day Out and Tour de Moor, James – who lives in Tavistock – has been motivated to strap on a parachute and make the giant jump to help make a difference beyond the hospital walls. The money he raises will support our service for patients throughout the communities of Plymouth and surrounding areas, including Tavistock, where he lives with his family.

Working across the wards of UHP NHS Trust, James and the rest of the St Luke’s team based there provide specialist advice and support for patients with progressive life-limiting illnesses. They are there to give emotional support and practical advice to these patients and to their families and carers, too, as well as delivering education in specialist end of life care to doctors and nurses across the hospital.

For many months of the Covid-19 crisis, James and his teammates at the hospital worked tirelessly alongside their NHS colleagues on the frontline so that patients dying from complications of the virus got the high-calibre compassionate end of life care they needed.

Watching James from the ground and cheering him on when he makes his fundraising freefall will be his partner Katherine and two children, ten-year-old Tom and Grace, aged six.

James said: “St Luke’s touches the lives of many local families, but what some people might not realise is that as an independent charity we rely heavily on the support we receive from our community. It makes a crucial difference because without it we couldn’t do as much for patients and their loved ones who rely on our service when they’re going through the toughest of times.

“Doing a skydive has long been on my bucket list and I’m really proud to be doing it for such a fantastic cause.”

Anyone wanting to donate can do so via James’s JustGiving fundraising page here.

Those who, like James, want to experience the unforgettable thrill of a tandem skydive in aid of St Luke’s, are invited to sign up for the challenge on 19 June or 12 September. You can do the jump for free when you raise sponsorship of £395 or more. Sign up here.