Cuz Cussen is a man on a mission, giving Plymouth people a live music extravaganza to remember while raising as much money as possible for St Luke’s and the care we give our patients and their families.

Cuz is the man behind the city’s annual two-day Rockfest, which will reach its tenth anniversary of raising money for St Luke’s this spring. He started the event 17 years ago, fundraising for various charities close to his heart, and it was following the death of his beloved mum Dot, in May 2008, that he decided to donate all the money raised each year to St Luke’s.

During the last few months of her life, Dot received care from St Luke’s and spent her last few days at Turnchapel. Seeing at first hand the dedication and compassion of our team meant that St Luke’s gained a special place in Cuz’s heart, which has spurred him on to raise an incredible £77,932 through Rockfest for our end of life care.

Cuz, who sadly lost his father just a few months after Dot passed away, works tirelessly to organise and deliver the event at Crash Manor nightclub in Union Street. With 20 bands playing everything from rock to reggae and blues to punk over the two days, plus a raffle with a variety of great prizes, it is a regular fixture in the city and Cuz is always moved by the generosity of those who support it.

“The bands play for no fee, and I’m always blown away by how generously people give at Rockfest,” said Cuz. “I think it’s all a testament to how many people’s lives have been touched by St Luke’s and how highly we all think of the charity. It’s my aim to just keep going and get to £100,000 by 2020. Organising it all is very intense – I’m running on empty afterwards – but what a buzz! It is great to be giving something back to the place that cared for mum so well.”

This year’s Rockfest is on 31 March and 1 April (1pm until late). Tickets are £10 per day on the door and as it is a family-friendly event, entry for under-18s is free, although they can’t stay past 7.30pm.

Bands confirmed for this year include Stone Vulture, Rusty Angels and Funky Munks.

Keep on rocking, Cuz – we appreciate all you do for us!

Get involved…
Rockfest 2018 on Facebook
Rockfest 2018 on Twitter

 

 

Thank you to Plymouth Argyle Football Club for putting its best foot forward to support our Sponsor a Nurse campaign.

Recently two of the players, Jamie Ness and Luke McCormick, visited our specialist unit at Turnchapel to meet some of our nurses and see for themselves the compassionate care St Luke’s provides.

 

 

Wow, what a night! As part of their support for our Sponsor a Nurse campaign, Plymouth Argyle dedicated a recent home match – beating rivals Northampton Town in the process!

It was wonderful to see the players in their St Luke’s t-shirts, and we’re grateful to the club and the fans who demonstrated such tremendous support for our charity.

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.”

Joy Clarke, a well loved member of the Retail team based at Plympton, is retiring at the end of November after eight and half years’ dedicated service.

Joy returned to live in Plymouth from Torquay following the death of her partner. Keen to work and with good knowledge of St Luke’s gained through fundraising via a local Lion’s Club, she soon proved herself a great asset, working on everything from logistics to sorting through bric-a-brac donations.

Particularly enjoying the research involved, Joy quickly developed something of an eye for spotting ‘buried treasure’ among the piles of donated items and selecting those most likely to fetch a good price at auction. In her first year, sales from the auctions soared from £800 to £12,000 and gradually Joy’s hours increased until she became full time.

“It’s always felt as though I was a good fit for working here,” said Joy, whose varied background includes tailoring, working for a hi-fi business, driving a fork-lift truck for a lubricants company and some time with beauty brand Clinique. “I’ve seen my role evolve and have loved being part of the team, the happy atmosphere and working alongside our fantastic volunteers. My heart and mind has always been St Luke’s.”

A particular high point for Joy was seeing the Retail team hit its £1million profit target last year. The incredible team spirit is just one of the reasons she has not found it an easy decision to retire, but she plans to retain links by volunteering in our shops and continuing the fundraise for
St Luke’s. Joy wants to combine this with spending more time with family. In fact, supporting charities is in the blood, with Joy’s grand-daughter recently having her long tresses cut for the Little Princess Trust, which provides real hair wigs to children who have lost their hair through illness, and donating her sponsorship to
St Luke’s.

“I will miss being part of the team full time,” said Joy, who also plans to spend more time on craft projects. “But I will be a very willing volunteer – I definitely won’t be a stranger!”

We wish Joy much happiness in her retirement.

Central to the compassionate care we provide, St Luke’s nurses are precious. Sponsoring them makes a real difference to patients’ lives, but did you know this invaluable support comes from businesses and other organisations as well as from individuals?

Plymouth Argyle Football Club has put its best foot forward to provide sponsorship for just this cause, and sent some of its players to the specialist unit recently to see for themselves the outstanding care provided by our team.

During their visit, the football players met the nurses and had a tour around the building. They also heard how staff work with patients and families to create lasting positive memories.

“It’s a truly amazing place, there is no detail that goes uncovered” said one of the team. “One thing that really stands out is the amount of care that goes into this place. “My expectation was that it might be kind of morbid but in actual fact it could not be further from that, I think it’s inspirational, not just what the nurses do, but also the doctors and volunteers. One volunteer told me that if she ever needed this sort of assistance she would have no qualms about coming here. That says a lot about the place it really is a brilliant job that they do here, the care that goes into the patients is completely evident.

For young people it’s so easy to turn a blind eye to things like this, being poorly isn’t something that you would like to think about. But there is so much good work that goes on here and if ever we had loved ones coming here, they would certainly see for themselves what a good positive place this is.

This is a place that you must see for yourself to really appreciate how much good work goes on. If anyone had any misconception about St Luke’s, then coming here would let them see how amazing it is.

It has completely changed my perceptions and I have only been here an hour. It’s really clear how important it is to the nurses, how much it means to them. Clearly, it is more than just a job.”

“Plymouth Argyle’s support means so much to us,” says nurse Teresa Bickle, part of the nursing team. “Footballers are role models for children and teenagers and we hope that through their engagement with them the club can help us bust myths around death, dying and hospices. Encouraging the younger age group feel more comfortable around these subjects and telling them about our work will help ensure St Luke’s can continue providing crucial end of life care for generations to come.”

Interested in joining the Sponsor a Nurse program, or want to know more about the work of our nurses? Visit our sponsor a nurse page here.

St Luke’s is much more than just hands on care, our compassionate staff go that extra mile to create lasting memories for our patients.

When specialist unit sister Karen noticed a photo by the side of a patient’s bed it prompted a conversation that led to something extraordinary. The photo was of the patient as a young girl, walking along Salcombe beach.

“If I could do anything before I die, it would be to have one last walk along the beach – but I know it’s just not possible” said the patient. Knowing how much this meant to the patient, sister Karen knew she had to do something.

A few emails and conversations later, staff were rallying across all sites to make this dream a reality. The warehouse team sent across beach related items; nurses visited Mountbatten beach to collect sand and water; and word soon spread to the local garden centre in Endsleigh who also came up trumps with props to assist.

In just 48 hours, The View (previously known as the conservatory) in Turnchapel was transformed into an indoor beach of epic proportions.

“As soon as the patient saw what we had created, she cried.” said sister Karen. “She took off her slippers and put her feet in the sand, paddled in the sea water and rubbed the seaweed between her toes. Being able to touch, feel and smell the beach meant so much to her and brought back her childhood memories. It was just the patient and I in the room, and I felt so privileged to be part of this moment. It was something I will never forget.”

Karen added, “This really captures what hospice care is all about, creating memories and trying our very best to make dreams a reality. It also demonstrates just what an amazing team we have here at St Luke’s and the compassion they have to offer. There was so many departments outside the wards uniting to make this possible, so thank you to everyone involved.”

Weddings, a final boat trip, a visit from a horse, virtual reality diving and now a visit to the beach have all been made possible by our caring staff in the last 12 months alone. No matter the ask, we will always rise to the challenge and create lasting memories for our patients and their families that will last forever.

When faced with a long term health condition or disability, it is important to have a say in how your care is delivered. Choice and ensuring the care is tailored to your specific needs is paramount.

In 2014 the NHS reviewed the way healthcare costs were distributed and created personal healthcare budgets, giving everybody a voice in how their health and wellbeing needs are delivered.

It isn’t new money, but a different way of spending health funding to meet the needs of an individual explains St Luke’s clinical educator, Su Jameson “A personal health budget may be used for a range of things to meet agreed health and wellbeing outcomes. This can include therapies, personal care and equipment. What often comes as a surprise is that your care doesn’t necessarily have to be provided by a healthcare professional, it could be a relative or anyone, it is your choice.”

In response to local demand our education department are now offering courses to help and guide anyone with an approved personal healthcare budget. “Once the budget is in place, we can assist in training the carers with the skills they need to be able to care for that individual. The training can take place at home and will be bespoke to the care needs of the individual. Each course is unique, care requirements will differ from person to person, so you can’t simply roll out the same training to everybody”.

Zak Hughes, aged 21 from Yealmpton is one of the first to take advantage of St Luke’s new training service. “Personal healthcare budgets can be a bit daunting, I knew I wanted choice in my care and to become more independent, but I needed a little help.”

Mum Wendy said: “Zak has had a rare neuromuscular condition, myotubular myopathy (www.myotubulartrust.org) since birth, affecting his breathing, swallowing and mobility. For him, something as simple as opening an envelope is impossible.” Zak’s mum and dad had always been closely involved in managing his daily needs with some support from a care agency in his teenage years. Naturally, on reaching adulthood, Zak felt it was time to take things into his control, starting with employing his own team of carers.

Arriving at Zak’s home with bags of medical equipment and five medical manikins, trainers Su Jameson and Mike Thomas delivered a seven hour advanced learning practical and theory course for his six carers. “Not all of his carers came from a previous career in nursing” said Su. For Zak, our training was centred around recognising a deteriorating adult, basic life support, nasopharyngeal suctioning, medicine management and pressure area care management. This course not only gives the carers confidence to manage Zak’s needs, but also makes them feel they are fulfilling their personal and professional development.”

Attending the course were six care assistants Mel, Vicky, Faye, Honey, Steve and Jemma. “You can tell that they are professional trainers, it was so in-depth, but delivered at a level everyone could understand. It was the best training I think we’ve ever had and delivered with a sense of humour and fun which made it really memorable.”

While Zak feels that it is important for his carers to feel invested to help them maintain fulfilment in their work, it is also equally important to him that as well as being people who he has things in common with, they are also confident in delivering care of the highest quality. “I would like to say a big thank you to St Luke’s for their role in doing just that!” said Zak.

Our education department is run by a multidisciplinary team of nurses, physiotherapists and public health professionals offering external training courses to healthcare workers. They specialise in courses focussed on upskilling healthcare professionals linked to palliative and end of life, alongside providing general healthcare training. All profits from the courses are invested into our service to help deliver care to over 3,400 patients every year.

Care at home and avoiding unnecessary visits to Plymouth hospitals is a key priority says local hospice charity.

Research from Dying Matters, a national coalition which aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, states more than 70% of people wish to die peacefully at home. St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth care at home teams are helping to make this a reality for residents in Tavistock as they work in partnership with other healthcare professionals to put end of life care on the agenda locally.

Hospice Care Week, the annual week celebrating the work hospices do, falls between 9 – 15 October and this year the theme is ‘We are Hospice Care’, highlighting the many faces of people involved in hospice care throughout the country. From St Luke’s nurses to the healthcare providers that work alongside, Hospice Care Week is about celebrating everyone involved in providing and supporting hospice care.

St Luke’s is leading end of life care in Tavistock, working in close partnership with local GPs, Livewell Southwest district nurses, Tavistock Hospital and Brentor and Moor Compassionate Neighbours. The St Luke’s at home team provides the support to enable people to remain in the comfort of their own homes, reducing unnecessary journeys to Plymouth hospitals and ensuring that they receive the care they need in the last months, weeks and days of life.

Derek Hart is the dedicated St Luke’s specialist nurses for the Tavistock area and has been working for the local charity for the last six years. Derek can travel up to 100 miles a day visiting terminally ill patients in their homes, offering support, guidance and medical care and advice. He supports patients throughout Tavistock and the surrounding area. In the last year Derek has made 605 patient visits. Almost half of all these visits took place in rural outlying areas including Princetown, and up across to Bere Alston, Mary Tavy and Lifton. Although the majority of Derek’s patients are seen in their own homes, Derek also works closely with Livewell Southwest staff at Tavistock Hospital, local care homes and agencies and has even received funding from The Burdett Trust to facilitate end of life care at Dartmoor prison, helping to deliver symptom and pain management to prisoners with terminal illnesses.

Derek wants to ensure that wherever possible, his patients are cared for where they want to be, in a familiar setting or environment. “Many of our patients don’t want to go all the way to a Plymouth hospital. They would prefer to stay locally in their own homes or at Tavistock Hospital, which many feel can be more relaxed and not as busy as a ward in an acute hospital.”

A key aspect of the end of life care provision that St Luke’s provides in Tavistock and the surrounding area is partnership work, ensuring that patients receive the best possible end of life care. Derek says, “When facing the rural challenges of Dartmoor we have to ensure that our care is coordinated with other local healthcare professionals, with effective communication, using our resources more efficiently, to deliver patient care, but also giving a higher standard of end of life care as well.”

These challenges mean that Derek and his team have to think efficiently when visiting patients, often undertaking joint visits with other local healthcare professionals or planning to fulfil a patient’s medication needs.

Harry Lee Cutler, Livewell Southwest GP at Tavistock Hospital said, “St Luke’s is really important. We get a few palliative care patients in this hospital and they can have quite complex needs that require specialist input. St Luke’s have that extra bit of time to be able to run through their symptoms and offer advice with specialist medications to ensure that patients are comfortable and their holistic needs are met at end of their life. They can also provide this care right here in Tavistock without the need for patients to go into the unit at Turnchapel or Derriford.”

Jane Martin, Livewell Southwest Community Sister at Lifton surgery and district nurse for the Tavistock area, works alongside Derek and St Luke’s on a regular basis, said, “Compassion is fundamental to all nursing care, but even more fundamental is the provision of caring for dying people and those close to them. Working in partnership and having frequent communication with Derek are paramount in the rural area we serve. He has the specialist knowledge of guiding us throughout the patients care in particular with pain relief and symptom control. Our joint home visits are so beneficial to the patient, dedicating time to talk through any worries or concerns and providing a coordinated package of care to ensure they remain at home.”

Derek has also been instrumental in creating the Tavistock Palliative Care Forum, providing an opportunity for local healthcare professionals to join together every few months to share their skills and knowledge and help to deliver a seamless end of life palliative care journey. Derek says, “Education and communication are the two prime factors for effective working here in Tavistock and I think that utilising all our skills and helping to support each other are paramount in achieving this.”

However, the care Derek and his team provide for the people of Tavistock goes far beyond hands-on care. A key part of the work Derek does is encouraging conversations around advanced care planning, working closely with Brentor and Moor Compassionate Neighbours to help communities come together in care provision. For more information visit: www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/compassionatecommunities

“Living in such a rural area does mean that traditionally it has felt difficult for some patients to get access to support, which means they become more reliant on the involvement of family members with the delivery of care. With an aging population it is important that we help to find new support networks for residents. That is why we work to educate carers and other healthcare professionals in delivering end of life care and in doing so we are helping to develop compassionate communities, giving everyone a responsibility when it comes to end of life care.”

Derek concludes, “We do still have work to do and constantly adapting the care and support we provide to meet the needs of the Tavistock community and an ageing UK population. End of life care is high on the agenda in Tavistock and I believe as a collective of healthcare professionals we are making a real difference to the Tavistock community.”