The support St Luke’s receives from the business community makes a big difference to us and this year many local solicitors are once again generously giving their time for free during our annual Make a Will Week (13 – 17 May), in return for donations to our charity.
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It was a sight more dazzling than the day’s bright sunshine – a record multitude of men on the move at Men’s Day Out, the annual guys-only gathering in aid of much-loved local charity St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth.
Saturday 30 March saw over 2,200 big-hearted men – the biggest crowd for the event since its launch in 2014 – striding the streets and the South West Coastal Path to raise vital funds for the specialist end of life care St Luke’s provides for terminally ill people at home, in hospital and at its specialist unit at Turnchapel.
As they pounded the pavements, they were cheered on by many, including passing motorists tooting their horns in solidarity with the charity whose care and support helps families across Plymouth, South West Devon and South East Cornwall at the most vulnerable of times.
Sponsored by IU Energy, which has supported Men’s Day Out since it began, the largest men-only charity event in the South West (and probably the UK!) saw guys gather with their mates for the charity walk, with pitstops along the way and before the rugby match between Plymouth Albion RFC and Birmingham Mosely, and a well-earned pasty and pint.
While the lively event was – as always – full of banter, never far from the men’s thoughts were the many lost loved ones in whose memory they took to the streets. Among the fancy dress outfits, ranging from Cornish serving maids to traditional Mexican attire, was a sea of tee-shirts emblazoned with the names of mums, dads, sisters, brothers and treasured friends all being celebrated by those determined to make a difference for the charity that cared so compassionately for their special ones.
For Daniel Turton from Plympton (pictured below), the day was all about remembering his much-loved mum, Marlene, who was looked after by St Luke’s at Turnchapel in the last weeks of her life, in 2012. He said: “Mum was such a fantastic person and it was very hard losing her, but seeing the amazing care she received in the beautiful surroundings at Turnchapel and getting to spend precious time with her there has been a big comfort to me and my family.
“Sadly, government funding for St Luke’s is just not enough – that’s why me and my friends do the walk. We’re the lucky ones being here to help raise money for people like my mum who really need the specialist care.”
Also enjoying the electric atmosphere was Darren Brown from Ham (pictured below), whose father David was cared for at home by the St Luke’s team. Walking with a band of loyal friends he’s had since his days at Mount Wise Primary School 40 years ago, Darren said: “Not only did Dad’s nurse James give brilliant medical care, he listened and provided support for the whole family.
“Now my mum-in-law is also being looked after by St Luke’s at home, and we have peace of mind knowing that the care being given is the best of the best. To me, every St Luke’s nurse is worth a million pounds so I’m more than glad to do my bit.”
With the reputation of Men’s Day Out spreading across the miles, the event also attracted those from as far afield as Manchester. Among them was Chris Hogg (pictured below), originally from Plymouth but now living in Bristol. St Luke’s cared for Chris’s brother Peter, before sadly he passed away in 2017.
Chris said: “Peter was such an adventurous person and so passionate about the environment. Men’s Day Out falls close to his birthday and this year would have been his 40th so me and my friends were determined do him proud.
“St Luke’s care was second to none, including the bereavement support for Peter’s children, so this is us saying thank you by raising funds the charity so badly needs. Just like Peter always did, we seized the day to make a difference!”
Joined by his brother and friends, Jamie Lake of Plympton stepped out in memory of his much-loved father David Robson, who had Huntington’s disease and was cared for by St Luke’s at Turnchapel in his last days in 2016.
Jamie said: “It’s been such a fantastic turn out and an amazing atmosphere. What a great way to be able to thank St Luke’s for all they did for my family and to remember happy times we had with Dad. Everyone was buzzing –and looking forward to next year already!”
Nina Wearne, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at St Luke’s, said: “Men’s Day Out is always a highlight and this year we’ve been even more blown away with the record-breaking number taking part.
“It’s been heart-warming seeing so many men band together and have a great time, remembering loved ones and doing their bit to ensure St Luke’s can be there for the family, friends, colleagues and neighbours who could need our specialist care in the future.
“Since the event started in 2014 it has grown from 574 participants to over 2,200 and we’re on track this year to raise more than enough to provide a full package of care at home for over 100 local families.
“A huge thank you to everyone who took part and all who helped us put on such a great event – our sponsors IU Energy, plus Plymouth Albion RFC, Salcombe Brewery, Burt’s Crisps and of course our amazing volunteers.”
When you’re out in Plymouth and surrounding areas, you can’t fail to notice runners pounding the pavements, some of whom are putting in training for the London Marathon. Among those taking on the big challenge next month is St Luke’s Dr Kate Davies, who’s based at our specialist unit at Turnchapel.
Not only is keen runner Kate dedicated to the work she loves, she’s also passionate about raising the profile of hospice care and its need for continued funding. That’s why she’s finding time in her hectic schedule to train between shifts and family life with her husband and two small children, ready to run the marathon in aid of Hospice UK.
Kate, who joined St Luke’s in 2011, said: “I was thrilled to get a place to raise funds for Hospice UK. They’re the voice of hospices at national level and work hard to ensure end of life care stays on the agenda.
“The hospice movement in the UK is still quite young, so this kind of profile raising is really important to help ensure organisations including St Luke’s get the support, development and training they need now and in the future.”
It was while working in the oncology and haematology team at Derriford Hospital that Kate, originally from Portsmouth, decided she wanted to focus on palliative care. She found it rewarding being part of a team caring for patients with different types of cancer. So, when she was offered the opportunity to join St Luke’s, she knew it was where she wanted to be, looking after people affected by the disease as well as those with other terminal conditions Since joining our charity, Kate’s passion for her work has grown even more and she especially appreciates the extra time she has to spend with patients, something in short supply on the NHS wards.
“Here, I don’t feel rushed, and when new patients arrive – often fearful coming into the unfamiliar environment of a hospice – I have the time needed to talk things through, find out more about them and help put them at ease.”
Talking to Kate, it’s obvious she regards it as a privilege to look after terminally ill people, whether it is symptom control so a patient can return home or being there to give bespoke care in their very last days of life.
She said: “The medical care we give is so important but it’s more than that.
“It’s very special being part of a team for whom nothing is too much trouble, where every day colleagues go the extra mile, such as arranging a last boat trip for a patient who misses being out on the water.
“And we all need each other. For example, it’s often a Healthcare Assistant who’s with a patient at a time when they’re feeling more relaxed, so they’ll pick up on little things that can mean a great deal to that person. They then feed that back to me, which is such a help.”
While there’s no doubt the nature of her job can take its toll emotionally, it is this camaraderie Kate credits with helping her resilience, along with the uplifting feeling of knowing she’s making an important difference.
And it’s this resilience, plus her quiet determination, that will see Kate keep going through all weathers in her marathon training, too.
She said: “I’m so excited about the day! I’m running for such a great cause and not only will friends be there to cheer me on, my husband Tom is doing the marathon with me, so it’s extra special.”
Kate won’t be the only St Luke’s face running on 28 April. Also putting his best foot forward is Head of Marketing and Communications Robert Maltby, running in aid of our charity and Hospice UK.
Good luck to both Kate and Robert. Blisters or not, we couldn’t wish for better ambassadors in the capital and we’re so grateful for your support!
When gifted local artist Colin Pethick learned of the opportunity to lend his talent to St Luke’s by painting one of the elephant sculptures for this summer’s Elmer’s Big Parade, it was an opportunity he simply didn’t want to miss – a chance to support our charity and at the same time pay tribute to his wonderful wife Zheng, for whom we cared for before she passed away.
Just recently, Colin has been busy completing his masterpiece at Herd HQ at Western Approach, giving the public the opportunity to see part of his painting process on the rather unusual ‘canvas’ of a three-dimensional elephant sculpture.
Watching him at work and hearing him speak, it is clear Colin’s creation – which he has called ‘The Beauty of Transcience’ – is a real labour of love for Zheng, whom he met while in China. Her influence and that of her homeland shine through, as does his great affection for her, as he speaks movingly of their time together before sadly, Zheng, who had cancer, died.
Having met later in life while Colin – who is also an art tutor – was on an internship in China, the two enjoyed a long distance friendship, corresponding as penpals before Colin returned to Zheng and proposed two years later. They were married the very next day in Chengdu, near Tibet.
Colin says: “When we met, Zheng was working as an interpreter and she was also an artist, and we hit it off. After we married and she came to live with me in the UK, she did an art degree at the University of Plymouth, which she so enjoyed – she was a really good painter and I learned so much from her.
“We had ten wonderful years together before she was diagnosed. They told us she had this very rare form of lung cancer; there was no history of it in her family.
“It was towards the end that St Luke’s became involved, and it was the Crisis team who got her well enough to stay with me at home because it was her wish to die there. The care was just so good all round and I never would have coped without St Luke’s help.”
Alongside Colin through this heart-breaking time was Bereavement Support Worker Andy Searle, providing a listening ear when he needed it most. And it was Andy, knowing Colin’s artistic talent as well as his high opinion of our charity, who brought to his attention the opportunity to submit a design for one of the mammoth mob of elephant sculptures for Elmer’s Big Parade.
Colin said: “I just thought, yes, what a fantastic project! And it’s the least I can do to give something back.
“My Elmer is like a little legacy for Zheng, of all the things she liked – the things that got her going as an artist and the things we celebrated. I managed to work them into the design, which I’ve called ‘The Beauty of Transience’.
“I’ve woven in a lot of Chinese and Japanese visual cultural references and symbols of transcience, of mortality, that they use there. So the theme is life and death, and how you deal with death. It was Andy’s bereavement support that was such a help to me – it made a tremendous difference. He said to me quite early on, “You’ll find that the good memories will come through.
The good things you did together, they will outweigh the bad times.” He then really got me to talk about the bad times, and he was right. I found that tremendously cathartic.”
Having perfected his painting, Colin is now looking forward to seeing his Elmer among the others that will make up our sculpture trail with a difference, encouraging more open conversations about the somewhat ‘taboo’ subjects of death, dying and bereavement so that everyone living with loss can feel better understood and supported.
He said: “It’s exciting! Elmer’s Big Parade is educational and will work on so many levels. It’s lovely to have the opportunity to be involved. I thank St Luke’s, I really do.”
Among the long-serving 30 staff and 74 volunteers who recently gathered at a special ceremony to recognise their contribution to St Luke’s was 85-year-old Jeannie Norris, a special lady whose dedication to our charity has spanned an incredible 33 years!
Big-hearted Jeannie, who lives in Eggbuckland and has two daughters, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, started volunteering with us after her husband John passed away. With a background in retail gained at Plymouth department store Spooners (now Debenhams), she was well suited to joining our very first – and that time only – charity shop, at Frankfort Gate. She was soon greeting and helping customers there.
Since then, Jeannie has gained a wealth of experience across our others stores too, including St Budeaux and the Drake City Centre store, where she has volunteered since it opened in 2011 and puts in two shifts a week, mainly on the tills.
Over the years, Jeannie has not only seen our high-street presence soar, with a portfolio of 30 shops where 607 of our 907 volunteers give their time, she’s witnessed the evolution of St Luke’s from our beginnings at Syrena House, Plymstock, to a charity reaching right across the community, caring for patients at home, in hospital and at Turnchapel.
Like many fellow volunteers and some of the customers she meets, Jeannie knows first hand the outstanding calibre of the care we give. She said: “My late partner Jim was looked after by the team at Turnchapel so I know what a haven it is, where the team helps people die with dignity. I’ll always be grateful to them.”
This experience that has made Jeannie even more aware of the importance of her role. She said: “I love meeting people in our shop. They often come in with donations having recently lost a loved one, and being that listening ear when they want to chat and share memories is such a privilege.
“It’s about so much more than the transactions – you’re there to represent all St Luke’s stands for today, as it always has: respect, kindness and compassion. I get so much out of it personally and it’s very sociable. I’d definitely recommend it.”
A big thank you to Jeannie for her decades of dedication, and to all our other volunteers and staff recently recognised for their five years-plus service. St Luke’s wouldn’t be here without you!
While the hands-on medical care St Luke’s provides is outstanding, our holistic approach means we’re also there to give patients and their loved ones unwavering practical, emotional and spiritual support, too.
Providing this is our Social Care team, reaching out to people across the community in the midst of very challenging circumstances. Among the team for the past ten years has been Social Care and Bereavement Support Worker Janet Hearl, so as she left to start her retirement earlier this month, it was with immense gratitude for her contribution that we said farewell.
Before Janet left, she took the time to give us an insight into her role over her decade with our charity.
She said: “Before coming here I had many jobs, including Bed Manager at Derriford Hospital, but I always wanted to join St Luke’s.
“I began by working alongside a social worker and my role evolved as I gained experience in lots of different situations, because no two patients or families are the same. There’s so much variety to what we do.
“Naturally, it’s devastating for someone whose time is running short, and very challenging for their family, too. It’s about coming alongside them, being that empathic yet ‘neutral’ person they can be open with and express raw emotion. I’ve been there to listen and provide a reassuring presence that can make things that little bit easier, especially as there are sometimes complex family issues involved.
“It’s practical help, too, because at such times things can easily feel overwhelming. I’ve given advice and support to help patients get their affairs in order, which brings them increased peace of mind. Sometimes families need assistance with sorting out financial issues, and often with funeral arrangements as well.
“It isn’t about ‘solving’ problems,but being there for them at a very difficult time and, when appropriate, signposting them to other organisations who can help.
“It’s very rewarding and I’ve loved being part of a multidisciplinary team. There’s a wealth of experience between us, and I’ve enjoyed working closely with our nurses, OTs and physio – we all support each other. It’s those relationships, as well as memories of patients and families, that will stay in my heart.”
As Janet retires to spend more time with family, travel and continue volunteering with Jeremiah’s Journey, the legacy she leaves is the many families she’s helped and also the knowledge and experience she has imparted to colleagues.
We wish Janet a long and happy retirement.