The latest news and updates on and at St Lukes Plymouth. Follow us on social media or sign up to our newsletter for more updates.

Image from Craig's run and an image of Craig with his Father
Completing a half marathon, 10K or 5K can mean so much more than a fitness challenge and you runners do a fantastic job of keeping St Luke’s close to your hearts. It makes us beam with pride when we see you clocking up the miles sporting our charity’s name across your chest. Collectively this year’s runners  have raised over £14,000 and still counting. That’s enough to provide a full package of care including bereavement support for over 14 families at home.

For kind-hearted runner Craig from Hartley Vale in Plymouth, it was a run to remember in more ways than one. It was a way to say thank you for the care that his father and mother-in-law received in their final days, both at home and in our specialist unit at Turnchapel.
With the help of his supportive friends and family, he was able to take on the challenge motivated by his precious memories of those he had lost and the St Luke’s nurses who made a difference in those final days.
Make your next run matter, run for St Luke’s. Whether it’s the Ocean City Half Marathon, the Plymouth 10k, the South West Coastal Path, Coast to Coast, the London Marathon or even the Marathon De Sable in the Sahara Desert, your amazing efforts will make all the difference to our vital patient care. Click here for information.
You can support Craig via his Just Giving page.

Biking bravehearts smash Compass Points Challenge

980 miles by bike in just ten days? They smashed it!

We’re in awe of the brave bunch who took on the epic challenge of covering England – north to south and east to west – on two wheels in aid of our charity, despite being relatively new to life in the saddle. Achieving all this in just ten days makes it all the more remarkable – that’s up to 11-and-half hours’ cycling a day for each of them!

Though the pandemic put paid to their plans to cycle to Barcelona last year, Dan Turner, Becky Smith, Tony Dinham, Jake Ryan, Max Hembroke and Jordey Logan could not be deterred from getting on their bikes for us and hatched a new plan. And – when the going got really tough – memories of their loved ones cared for by St Luke’s spurred them on, mile after gruelling mile.

As part of their route, which saw them cross the Meridian Line, go over (and under!) rivers and pass stone circles, they made a special stop-off at Turnchapel to meet some of our nurses who were there to cheer them on.

Dan said: “We’d never done anything like this before and there’s no denying the challenge felt brutal at times, but we were spurred on by memories friends and family cared for by St Luke’s, including my mum and my nan. We’re determined to give something back to the charity to say thank-you for such superb care. It’s the least we can do to support such a vital resource for our community.”

Huge thanks to all the cyclists, plus their support team Al Filbey and Chloe Dinham. We’re also really grateful to everyone who’s backed them with donations, taking them to a fantastic total of £7,115 – and counting!

If you’d like to add your donation, please click here.

Learn more about St Luke’s cycle challenges here.

A (ten) grand day for Elaine!

Friday 13 August turned out to be a very lucky date indeed for the winner of our weekly lottery rollover prize, Elaine from South East Cornwall. It wasn’t just a grand day – it was a ten-grand day, thanks to the news that she’d scooped £10,000!

To Elaine, who is disabled and lives with her much-loved dog Leah, her bumper win feels ‘life-changing’ after so many years spent struggling just to get by. She said: “When I got the call, it came as a huge shock but a very, very good one! It is more money than I have ever had all at one time and what it has given me is priceless. I now have peace of mind, knowing I can finally afford to replace my fridge and other old appliances – doing that, and keeping some for my future, means such a huge weight off my mind.

“I’ve taken part in St Luke’s lottery since 2014 because I know how needed their care is right across the community. I’ve won £10 before but nothing prepared me for this!”

Our lottery is played by people across Plymouth and surrounding areas where we give our compassionate care, and Elaine is one of almost 2,000 supporters who prefer to take part the traditional way, paying their fee in person rather than online. There to see her receive the bumper cheque from Trish Whitefoot of our Lottery Team was Yvette Walker, the long-serving, big-hearted Lottery Collector who’s got to know Elaine over the years she has been visiting to collect her participation fee.

Elaine said: “I look forward to Yvette’s visits and it means a lot that she always makes time for a catch-up. If, like me, you can’t get out much anymore because of age or disability, it makes a big difference seeing a friendly face you know and trust.”

Yvette, who is in her 60s, joined us almost ten years ago after living in London, where she was Area Fundraising Manager for the RNIB.  Struck by the positive difference a hospice in Harrow made to her mother when she needed day care support, she was keen to become part of the team at St Luke’s, recognising the importance of our lottery in raising vital funds to help our specialist service reach more local families.

Yvette, who – like all our Lottery Collectors – is self-employed, said: “This is so much more than just a job to me and I can’t imagine stopping. It’s needed because many of our lottery players – particularly those who are older – aren’t comfortable disclosing their bank details online and want to pay by cash. It also gives me a chance to ask how they are and catch up on their news. I’ll even nip to the shop if they’re not able to get out. I’m happy to help, knowing that for many I might be the only visitor they’ll have all week.

“I am thrilled Elaine is our rollover winner because I understand what a huge difference the prize will make to her. It just shows what is possible when you keep up your support for St Luke’s week on week!”

Get involved in our weekly lottery here.

Community unites for Midnight Walk in support of local hospice care

Midnight Walk turned Plymouth bright pink as a thousand women and girls came together wearing tee-shirts of that hue to walk across the city, raising vital funds to help ensure local people with terminal illness get high-calibre care that helps them live well to the end of their lives.

On Friday 20 August, saw much-loved local charity St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth welcome faces both familiar and new to its hotly anticipated mass participation fundraising event, Midnight Walk, following the sponsored walk’s cancellation last year because of the pandemic. So popular was the event in aid of the compassionate care the hospice provides across Plymouth and surrounding areas that it was a complete sell-out.

Setting off from Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park Stadium, the ladies followed 5, 10 or 15-mile route taking in many Plymouth landmarks, including Smeaton’s Tower and the Barbican. And when the challenge got tough, moral support came in abundance from the spectators who cheered them on from their front gardens and the passing motorists who tooted their horns in solidarity.

The event, sponsored by GA Solicitors, saw many participants walking in memory of lost loved ones, having fun and making new memories as they celebrated the lives of people special to them who will never be forgotten.

Among those taking on the full 15 miles were Caroline Mercer from Salcombe, her daughters Cerys and Tegan and friends Debbie, Emma and Alice. The group was walking in memory of Lyndsey (Lynds) Fisher-Khoury, Caroline’s best friend and godmother to Cerys and Tegan, who was looked after by St Luke’s at Turnchapel before sadly, she died in May 2019.

Caroline said: “Lynds was such a special person – she loved life and was so kind and caring. She was always beautifully dressed and shone in any room yet was so down to earth. She was a lovely godmother, too, and we all miss her so much.

St Luke's Midnight Walk Caroline Mercer

“When Lynds needed St Luke’s care at Turnchapel, they looked after her wonderfully in a beautiful room looking onto the gardens. It helped her husband Mark, and all of us, to see that she was comfortable and at ease in such a peaceful place where nothing was ever too much trouble. Whenever we visited Lynds, we were always made to feel so welcome by the staff and I will never forget their kindness at such heart-breaking time.”

Also walking 15 miles were sisters Tracey Brannan from Crownhill and Suzanne Clough from Brixton, walking in memory of their much-loved grandfather Peter Clough. St Luke’s cared for Peter at home and later at its specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Tracey said: “Doing Midnight Walk this year feels extra special because it’s coming up to ten years since granddad died and it’s our way of paying tribute to him. What stood out to me about St Luke’s was the way their care helped him not just physically but mentally, too. They gave him – and us as a family – the ultimate support throughout. It’s really important to us to show our gratitude because there’s an endless need for what the charity provides.”

St Luke's Midnight Walk Tracey and Suzanne

Suzanne said: “I would have been marrying my fiancé Ashley today, but we postponed because of the pandemic. So, it was wonderful to be in an atmosphere of celebration at Midnight Walk, remembering our amazing granddad and doing our bit for such a vital service for our community.”

Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, Penny Hannah, said: “What an electric atmosphere! A huge, heartfelt thank you to all the ladies who came out to support St Luke’s – you are all incredible and we loved seeing you!

“From the dedications on the backs of all the tee-shirts it was clear to see the positive impact St Luke’s has had on so many local families in need at a time of crisis.

“After the disappointment of having to cancel last year’s Midnight Walk due to COVID-19 safety measures, this year’s event felt even more special. For some of the ladies taking part, it was the first opportunity they have had to reunite with family and friends since losing a loved one during the past 18 months, which have been so incredibly tough for people going through bereavement.

“We are so grateful to everyone who took part. Sponsorship money raised helps keep our team on the road 365 days a year, giving their compassionate care to patients in the comfort of their own home and supporting their families – all of which helps make our community a kinder place for people living and dying with terminal illness and for those close to them, too.

“I also want to thank all the other big-hearted people who make an event of this magnitude possible. That includes our army of amazing volunteers, our sponsors GA Solicitors, Plymouth Argyle, Cheezifit for the fantastic warm-up routine, Devon and Cornwall 4×4 Response Team, Devon and Cornwall Cycle Marshalls, PL1 Events and all the businesses and other organisations who’ve donated products and services. We simply couldn’t have done it without them and we are so grateful.”

 

Pride in Plymouth header

St Luke’s at Pride in Plymouth

Even the rain couldn’t dampen our enthusiasm – we were proudly part of last week’s Pride in Plymouth 2021 and it was great meeting so many who came along!
Our friendly team – including some of our nurses – were on hand ready to say hi, answer any questions  and let everyone know about the compassionate care our charity provides for local people with terminal illness, regardless of their background or circumstances.

It’s an event we always want to be part of because it’s a great opportunity to meet our city’s LGBTQ+ community and find out what matters most to them. Having honest conversations means our charity is better placed to ensure everyone in Plymouth and surrounding areas who is living with a life-limiting condition has access to the high-quality care they need, and deserve, at the end of their lives.

We know some LGBTQ+ people still experience discrimination when it comes to accessing healthcare, and that they are among the 1 in 4 people nationally who miss out on the high-quality care they need at the end of their lives. We’re doing our bit to tackle this inequality so that they feel understood and are looked after in the way that’s right them. We’re here to support those who love and care for them, too.
Ali in our team caring for patients at home said: “Death does not discriminate – neither do we. We’re committed to tackling unfairness and inequality in all its forms, making our community a kinder place for everyone affected by terminal illness.”

If you have any questions or need to talk to our team, don’t hesitate to drop us an e-mail on info@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.
St Luke's Midnight Walk Case Study Header. Images of the twins taking part in the Midnight Walk through the years.

St Luke's Midnight Walk Case Study Header. Images of the twins taking part in the Midnight Walk through the years.

Midnight Walk twin power!

When it comes to taking part in our much-loved Midnight Walk to raise vital funds for our charity, the more feet on the ground the better!

Not only are we excited to meet ladies participating in the challenge for the very first time, we love welcoming back the familiar faces once again stepping out to help us care for more people in their community. You can imagine, then, how delighted we are that twins Hazel Foster and Marcia Collins have registered to take part – not for their second, third or even fourth year, but their incredible 13th!

When the dynamic duo – who will celebrate their 60th birthdays just six days after this year’s event – heard that Midnight Walk is back on 20 August, they wasted no time in signing up.

The many thousands of steps taken by the twins in aid of St Luke’s are testament to the special place our charity holds in their hearts. Over the years, people close to them – including their beloved mother Joan Luckham, have been looked after by our team with such compassion that participating in Midnight Walk year on year is the sisters’ way of saying thank-you to us for going the extra mile.

Image of the sisters at a past Midnight Walk

Hazel, who lives in Woolwell, said: “Ever since we first took part in Midnight Walk in 2008, Marcia and I have been hooked! To us, there’s just no event like it so as soon as we’ve done one, we can’t wait to do another. The atmosphere is truly amazing – everybody is really friendly and we love the camaraderie, walking alongside hundreds of other ladies of all ages who are remembering their loved ones, too.

“When mum was in her last weeks of life, the care from St Luke’s was superb. Not only that, they supported us as a family. We felt listened to and understood. For Marcia and me, doing Midnight Walk is us giving something back for such kindness both then and more recently, with others dear to us also needing to be looked after by the hospice.

“Quite simply, I don’t know what families would do without St Luke’s in our city. It’s important we show our support so that the charity is here for years to come.”

Midnight Walk is on 20 August, starting and finishing at Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park Stadium. For more information and to register, click here.

Midnight Walk is kindly sponsored by GA Solicitors.

St Luke's nurse Ali

 

When her mother died unexpectedly Alison Griffiths was left heartbroken, her pain compounded by her mum not receiving the high level of care she deserved in her final days. It was a profound experience that planted in Ali, a highly experienced nurse, the passionate desire to one day work in palliative and end of life care, reducing patients’ pain, putting them at ease and helping to ensure that their death is dignified and peaceful.

Now, having joined St Luke’s as Advanced Palliative Care Specialist Practitioner (APCSP) four months ago, Ali is realising her dream in this peripatetic role, looking after patients at home.

To qualify for such a specialist position, Ali had to complete six months’ study of complex subject matter, which she juggled with all the responsibilities of being a full-time Senior Sister at our partner organisation University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, where she managed a team of 52 staff on an acute respiratory ward.  What Ali could not have foreseen, however, was that a global pandemic was on the way and that she would also be required to help quickly launch and run one of the COVID admission wards at the hospital and the step- down ward for patients recovered enough to be able to return home.

Ali said: “Being part of the emergency response was tough and exhausting but I was able to draw on all my years of nursing to help, including experience of working in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, where managing stress and constantly reprioritising was key. I was part of the intensive care team caring for wounded patients at Camp Bastion, the military, multinational-run trauma hospital.”

Listening to Ali, it is clear she is relishing being part of our charity, in a busy but less frenetic environment than the one she came from, giving her unhurried time to get to know her patients so that she can tailor care to best suit their needs. As APCSP, Ali is there to provide holistic care, along with diagnostic and treatment expertise, focussing on maintaining the highest possible quality of life for the people she looks after. The post of Advanced Nurse Practitioner is relatively new to St Luke’s and is ground-breaking, incorporating a deeper knowledge of anatomy and physiology as well as being a non-medical prescriber. These skills enable Ali to get to the very core of the patients’ symptoms, assess what is going on and then implement the best possible solutions and treatment options.

 

St Luke's community nurses outside of a home

Ali said: “When I arrive on their doorstep and they see the St Luke’s uniform, the relief patients feel is often palpable because they know they’re in good hands.

“Spending time with them in their own domain helps me build that deeper level of understanding of them, not just because of what they tell me but because all around are clues as to who they are as a person, from family photos to mementoes and books. It all helps me get to know them so I can develop their bespoke treatment plan. It’s a privilege to make a difference to them at such an anxious time – I find it incredibly rewarding.”

Ali is already feeling the benefit of having a better balance between work and home life, too. She said: “My wife is a Matron at the hospital so spinning lots of plates, just as I did when I was there. Life is busy at the hospice but there’s time to reflect, too, which is so important when you’re involved in such sensitive situations. Now, I have time to breathe and a renewed sense of energy and purpose, too.”

Along with her wealth of clinical expertise, passion and energy, Ali also brings to our charity experience of helping organisations to be truly inclusive in their approach so that no-one feels discriminated against. At UHP NHS Trust, she was part of the team that pioneered the implementation of the NHS rainbow badge for staff, a symbol letting patients know they can open up about issues related to sex and gender without fear of being judged or stigmatised.

Ali said: “It’s so important for health and social care organisations everywhere to not just talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to being inclusive, otherwise people will continue to miss out on getting the treatment that’s right for them. They need to know that they can speak to us openly and that we are their allies.”

Talking of allies, Ali credits the huge kindness that surrounds her at St Luke’s with helping her manage the steep learning curve that comes with taking on a senior role in an unfamiliar organisation.

Beaming, she said: “I can only describe arriving here as like walking into a hug – everyone is so welcoming, friendly and helpful. It’s a really nurturing environment, too, where people are encouraged and supported to give their best – just like ingredients that make up a delicious cake! Joining St Luke’s has been life-changing in the very best way.”

St Luke's nurse Anca pictured outside hospice

 

How the nurturing environment of St Luke’s, plus her own gentle strength and tenacity, have helped Anca thrive in her role at St Luke’s.

When you’ve arrived from overseas to live in another country and are still learning its language, you often rely on the non-verbal cues you pick up from those around you to help you adapt to the culture and your new surroundings. It is an experience Staff Nurse Anca Marasescu – who arrived in Plymouth from Romania in 2011 – has found helpful to draw on in her work caring for patients and supporting their relatives at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Anca, who lives in the city with her husband and twin daughters, said: “It is so important to be sensitive to how our patients and their families are feeling, which is about more than just listening to their words. Sometimes, the look in their eyes, or their posture, can tell me more about how they are feeling – and how they might want to receive my help – than what they say.

“I don’t see myself as special because as a team we all very attentive to them and their needs. We each bring our own unique perspective to our role at St Luke’s, and I think my experience of adapting to life and work in a foreign country, and not always being able to rely on words because the language was new, has become a strength and part of what makes me empathic in what I do. I never forget that our patients and their loved ones who visit them at Turnchapel are in an unfamiliar environment so need gentle support and extra reassurance.”

St Luke's nurse Anca holding a patients handWhen Anca joined our charity in 2017, she was new to hospice care but not to nursing itself, having worked first in a neo-natal unit in Romania, taking care of newborn babies needing intensive care, and then at Derriford, where she was a nurse looking after patients on Lynher Ward.

Anca said: “Though it wasn’t something I deliberately planned, my career has taken me from caring for new lives and then to nursing adults – usually those in middle age – to where I am now, giving care to people approaching the end of their lives.

“When I started working at Turnchapel I was out of my comfort zone and, with so much to learn about the specialist service St Luke’s provides it did feel daunting. As well as the support I got from my family, who are always telling me, “You can do it!”, what helped was the warm welcome I received and the consistent encouragement I’ve had from colleagues to always be myself while soaking up as much as I can. They know me and my ironic humour, and they’ve never wanted me to change or to lose my accent.”

Anca also cites the strong leadership the team has from Nicola Pereira, Head of Inpatient Nursing Services, and Sister Karen Thorrington as being key to her growth and development at St Luke’s.

“It doesn’t matter where I turn help is there, so I always feel well supported. Feedback from my manager Karen is really helpful, and when she described seeing my progress as just like watching a bud come into blossom, it really touched me to know that I am making a difference.

“As well as helping our patients feel as at ease as possible, just like the rest of the team I am always thinking of their relatives, too. Knowing that they will always remember how they felt when their loved one died, I reassure them that they did their best for that person. Giving them that comfort is really important because it helps them process what has happened and, over time, come to terms with such a significant loss. I think of my own family and how I would want them to be treated in that situation.”

“I’m really happy that in working with the St Luke’s team I have found somewhere that feels like home. We appreciate our similarities and also recognise that our differences are a strength and help us learn from each other. Regardless of how long they stay, everyone who chooses to work at the hospice is special.”

If you are interested in joining our team at St Luke’s, you can find out more and see our current vacancies here.

Aerial photograph of the South Hams

 

Our volunteers are gradually mobilising after the lockdown. Recently, the Friends in Modbury held a most successful stand at the Modbury Fair, selling clothes, accessories and raffle tickets to raise almost £500. This is a really sociable and supportive group, and it is a pleasure to be associated with them.

My dream is to form one or two additional groups in the South Hams – maybe in Kingsbridge, Salcombe, Ivybridge or elsewhere. Membership can lead to lasting friendships, while supporting an essential local healthcare charity. Do get in touch with me if you might be able to help – please see my contact details below.

With the easing of some lockdown restrictions, St Luke’s Open Gardens scheme has been able to proceed. In the South Hams the weather was glorious for both our events at Lower Combe Royal (Kingsbridge) and at Gnaton Hall (near Newton Ferrers); it was a little cloudy at Lukesland (Ivybridge) and at Sommerswood Lakes (South Brent), but this did not detract from the fabulous flora and scrumptious cakes. We are so grateful to the owners who open their beautiful gardens in aid of St Luke’s.

Our next Open Garden is at Bowringsleigh (Kingsbridge) on 5 September. Further information can be found at here. Here, you will see there’s also the opportunity to win an original painting by Brian Pollard.

A Compassionate Café was held in Kingsbridge in mid-June. This enables anyone who is looking after someone who is dying, has been bereaved or is living with a life-limiting illness to talk to someone with a sympathetic ear. Where needed, more specialised services can be signposted to provide specific advice. Do come along to the Compassionate Café for tea, coffee and a chat, every second and fourth Saturday, 10.30am – 12.30pm, at Harbour House Café, Kingsbridge. Please contact the café organiser, Linda Christian, on 07517 019131 in advance to say that you wish to attend or for more information.

We are grateful to the Lions Club of Ivybridge who invited us to run a stand at their annual Fun Day on 10 July. Thanks also to Martin French of the Totnes Hire Shop, who ran a stand: ‘Surf for St Luke’s’. The sun came out in the afternoon – as did the local crowds – and the event was a great success. On the Friday night the Wurzels played their ‘scrumpy and western’ gig, much enjoyed by the audience dressed in their hillbilly outfits.

The St Luke’s shops in Modbury and Ivybridge are getting back to normal, post-Covid. They have a terrific range of ‘pre-loved’ (and some new, factory-outlet) clothing and other bric-a-brac. They are normally open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9am to 4pm, and can receive donations of goods on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, although this can be limited by a shortage of space.

There are many other events further afield, such as the Eddystone Lighthouse Challenge on 24 July. Eight boats have entered in aid of St Luke’s, all from the Plymouth area, so I’m looking for an entry to represent the South Hams. See Sail for St Luke’s for details.

Please contact Colin if you feel you might be able to help: 01752 492626/ cpincombe@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

Making memories marcia's story. Marcia pictured with St Luke's nurse

We will always do whatever we can to support local families touched by terminal illness and this includes helping them make special memories.

That’s why, when we received a plea for help from Ryan Lidley, we sprang into action, determined to make sure his wedding to fiancée Naomi was a day to remember for his much-loved great auntie Marcia, whose cancer left her unable to attend the event she had been so looking forward to.

With Marcia receiving our care at her home in Keyham, Ryan sent us an email hoping we could show her how to use a laptop so she could watch the service from the comfort of her armchair. What he got in response went way beyond his expectations when we pulled out all the stops to do that and more besides!

 

 

With the ‘can do’ attitude typical of our team, we attended the service at Ridgeway Methodist Church so that we could live stream it, ensuring Marcia didn’t miss out on being part of the happy occasion. Dressed in her finery, she treasured every moment – including the wave from the vicar! We even laid on a spread of baked goodies for her to enjoy just as she would have done at the couple’s reception.

Marcia said: “I can’t put into words what it meant to me to see the service as it happened. It was wonderful! I sat for the rest of the day, thinking about it. It’s so important to be left with memories and that is what St Luke’s did for me. I am so grateful to have this charity in our city.”

St Luke’s Healthcare Assistant Lynn was there alongside Marcia to make sure she was feeling comfortable throughout. She said: “We knew Ryan and Naomi’s wedding was very, very important to Marcia so it was important to us, too. It gave me such a boost to know I was doing something to help.”

The last word goes to the groom, Ryan. He said: “My great auntie is such a lovely and loving lady. When we were talking about the fact that she wouldn’t be able to physically make it to the wedding, it was the first time I’d ever seen her cry. I made it my goal to come up with a solution, but never did I guess quite how much St Luke’s would go above and beyond. It made our big day all the more special and I’ll always remember their kindness.”