For three little girls whose father died from cancer last year, their teddy bears will always be incredibly special because – at the press of a paw – they can hear Daddy’s voice reminding them of his enduring love and affection.

When 37-year-old surfing instructor Russ French from Loddiswell (South Hams, Devon) was in his last days of life at Turnchapel, where our team looked after him, he recorded the heart-warming messages his wife Ginny says have since brought great comfort to the couple’s daughters, Effy, 9, and Aria, 4, just as they will to 1-year-old Indi, who was just a few months old when sadly, Russ died.

 

Ginny said: “Russ was always the most happy, chilled-out person but when his condition deteriorated quickly and he needed hospice care, it was a very anxious time for us. When you’re both in your 30s, it is not something you expect to be facing and it felt very daunting. This was all in the midst of the pandemic, too, which made things even harder.

“It really helped that the team was so warm and welcoming. Most people know about the fantastic medical care St Luke’s provides but what stood out to me was the way they showed great kindness to us as a family. It was Lisa, one of St Luke’s Family and Children’s Support Workers, who suggested that Russ record the teddy messages for the girls. She was there for us back in 2019, when she gently helped to prepare the girls for the changes they would see in Russ, and she has been such a source of reassurance for them – and me – ever since.

“For the wider team, too, nothing was ever too much trouble. I remember how they bought fish and chips for Russ as they knew it was his favourite, and they made sure he could get out into the gardens to see the sun setting.

“They did all this despite the challenges they were facing providing care while adhering to all the COVID safety measures. Russ was given a side room with private access so that I could visit and he could watch Effy and Aria run around and play with the sandboxes just outside his window. He was always such a loving, hands-on dad and I know how much that meant to him.

“This being our second Father’s Day without Russ, we’ll take it as it comes and I’ll be led by the girls. I expect we’ll be on the beach at Bigbury, where we had so many happy times with him. And whenever they want to hear Daddy’s voice, the teddies will always be there for Effy, Aria and Indi as a reminder of that very special bond.”

Our heartfelt thanks to Ginny and all Russ’s family and friends for the fantastic fundraising they have done for St Luke’s in memory of such a special man. They’ve raised over £19,000, for which we are so grateful.

If you’d like to remember a special dad by supporting St Luke’s, take a look at our in memory giving options here.