Excitement is building about Elmer the Elephant and his friends trooping into Plymouth for Elmer’s Big Parade next summer, giving our city a mammoth boost that will benefit us all.
The enchanting trail across Plymouth will feature 40 bright and unique elephant sculptures each painted by a talented emerging or established artist. Brought about in partnership between St Luke’s, Andersen Press and Wild in Art, the Parade is set to attract over 200,000 visitors to the city and its surrounding areas – that’s more than the annual Firework Championships, making it Devon and Cornwall’s biggest mass-participation event for 2019.
On average, trails such as this draw an extra 30 per cent footfall to shops and visitor attractions, and it’s estimated that ours will boost Plymouth’s economy by £5 million. Not only that, the increased profile will help raise awareness of our city’s creative community and all manner of businesses big and small.
Here at St Luke’s, we’re speaking to companies about getting behind our charity and this amazing opportunity for our city by sponsoring one of our elephant sculptures, which will eventually be auctioned off in aid of us when the Parade closes. Recently, we were delighted to welcome accountants PKF Francis Clark on board, the firm having recognised the potential to make a difference to our patients and their families while also boosting Plymouth as a whole.
Duncan Leslie, Partner at PKF Francis Clark, said: “We are delighted to support Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth in support of St Luke’s, who do such wonderful work caring for the families of the city affected by life-limiting illness. We look forward to tracking down our Elmer around the streets of Plymouth soon!”
The opportunity to be a sponsor is an exciting way to be involved in a major tourist attraction and be part of Plymouth’s portfolio of events for 2019. So, if there’s anyone in your networks who might welcome getting involved in this way, please help us spread the word.
Likewise, if you know an artist who’d like to get on board and use their talent to paint one of our lovely elephants, or you’re aware of a school or youth group who could benefit from being part of the trail’s education programme, we’d appreciate your help. Please put them in touch with Emma Milford, Project Manager for Elmer’s Big Parade 2019, on 01752 964429 or at email@example.com
An ‘amazing and ‘gentle’ midwife who passed away in March this year after a brave battle with cancer is being remembered by colleagues as they band together to raise money for St Luke’s.
Charlotte D’Alessio, who died the day after her 51st birthday, had worked at Derriford Hospital for almost two decades.
St Luke’s was there to provide care and support for Charlotte and her family, and her colleagues have already raised over £1,200 for our charity.
On 21 July they will come together to take part in our popular Neon Midnight Walk in memory of much-loved Charlotte.
Sign up | www.stlukesmidnightwalk.co.uk
Our amazing volunteers are at the heart of St Luke’s and the services we provide. We appreciate them every day and this national Volunteers’ Week (1 – 7 June 2018), we want to say an extra big thank you to them all for the difference they make.
We spoke with volunteers across our community to gain more insight into the work they do, what motivates them and what they gain in return. As we’re sure you’ll agree, they’re a real inspiration!
When it came to choosing the right person to cut the ribbon at the opening of its new charity shop in Southway, St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth knew just the woman for the job!
Maxine Carter, who lives locally, bravely had her head shaved on her 55th birthday earlier this year, raising almost £5,000 for the charity that cared for her father-in-law at its specialist unit at Turnchapel following his cancer diagnosis.
Her head shave, which took place at the Falstaff Inn in Southway, was something Maxine had been planning for five years while she grew her hair long. Prior to performing the shave, hairdresser Jenny King divided Maxine’s hair into four plaits, each measuring 16 inches, so that they could benefit the Little Princess Trust , which provides real hair wigs free of charge to children who’ve lost their own hair due to illness.
Maxine’s endeavour was supported family and friends who sponsored her, and a raffle at the event further boosted her total.
Speaking about her reasons for supporting the charity, Maxine said: “St Luke’s is important to me because of the fantastic work they do. My mum passed away 37 years ago this August and as a family we had no support from anyone, just a district nurse to visit once a day for personal care. It was really tough.
“But when my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer, it was St Luke’s who made such a difference. He received great care and as a family we felt well supported.
“I have been overwhelmed at how generously everyone has got behind my fundraising, and I felt very proud to be asked to cut the ribbon at the opening of the new shop.”
There’s no stopping Maxine, who is and taking her bravery to the next level and planning a skydive in aid of St Luke’s.
She said: “I always say to people, you never know what is around the corner and one day they might need the services of St Luke’s. It is a local charity and every penny counts. They need our support so they can carry on the fantastic care they give.”
People wanting to support Maxine can do so via her fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/Maxine-Carter1
When it comes to boosting your skills, making new friends and improving your health, there’s nothing quite like volunteering. Giving some of your spare time – whether it’s an hour or two once a week or several days a month – to help a good cause has been shown to do all of this and more while providing critical support to help charities like St Luke’s.
Our volunteers are absolutely vital to the operation of St Luke’s and we couldn’t do what we do without them. From students to retired people and from a wide variety of backgrounds, they generously give their time in a host of different roles across our organisaton.
While many are based in our shops, others give their time to help in the cafe at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, become befrienders to our patients or marshal at our key fundraising events, such as the Neon Midnight Walk and Tour de Moor. And there’s another way our fantastic volunteers pitch in – hunting for treasure at our Charity Shop Distribution Centre in Plympton!
It’s at the warehouse that each year thousands of donated items are given by people who choose to drop them off there rather than in our charity shops. Clothes, coins, crockery, books, records, toys, games, jewellery – the sheer variety of the items we receive is something to behold! And all of them need careful sorting, which is where our volunteers come in.
“We call these volunteers our treasure hunters,” said Mark Kendall, Logistics and Recycling Manager. “That’s because they’ve developed a good eye for spotting the interesting and unusual – and sometimes highly collectable – items that can help us raise that bit more money for St Luke’s.
“They work hard, sifting through bric-a-brac before it’s allocated according to which of our shops it suits best, and always keeping an eye out for something special – so it can be an exciting role and there’s often a real buzz.”
On Saturday 21 April, there’s an opportunity to find out more at the Open Day at the Distribution Centre. From 11am to 3pm and open to everyone, it’s a family-friendly event with activities for children and a barbecue, as well as guided tours and taster sessions giving insight into what it’s like to be a ‘treasure hunter’ for St Luke’s. Those who attend will also see the recycling side, which generates income for our charity too.
Mark said: “Without these volunteers, things would grind to a halt. It’s their generosity in giving their time and skills that makes all the difference. And as well as sometimes finding that ‘treasure’, many volunteers say that expanding their circle of friends and feeling part of something as important as St Luke’s and the care we provide gives them an amazing boost.”
Volunteer Open Day
Saturday 21 April 2018
11am to 3pm
St Luke’s Charity Shop Distribution Centre, Plympton, PL7 4JN. Directions.
No booking required, just turn up on the day!
For more information call 01752 401172 and ask for volunteer services.
At a recent conference one of the speakers spoke about the death of his three year old son. He wrote this for his other older son: Even in the darkest depths, when the world seems so unkind, there will always be a glimmer of light in the corner of your mind (H Hodgson). Simple and touching, it speaks of a truth that I have seen in almost everyone I have come alongside in my role as a hospice doctor. Those diagnosed with a terminal illness find themselves on a journey into the unknown, sometimes through chaos and deep darkness of emotional turmoil, but for most there is a glimmer of light that I would equate with hope.
Initially that hope may be placed in medicine and the treatments on offer, the perhaps secretly held hope of cure when in reality that hope was never realistic. Often the imagery is of fighting the illness, and when someone dies we are told that they lost their battle with it. But the reality is that it’s not do we fight, or do we give up? It’s what are we fighting for? (Atul Gawande). For most of us there are priorities beyond living as long as possible, and if those priorities are lost along the way of treatment we are doing people a disservice. Medicine is stilł doing too much. We are over treating people instead of having honest conversations much earlier about quality of life and priorities in the limited time that is left.
For those who have exhausted treatment options hope has a different hue. It may be of being pain free, or living long enough to achieve a landmark date, or of dying in peace and not alone. For some who are able to voice it there is the more poignant hope of something better beyond death. Part of my role is helping patients to manage hope, to transfer hope from things that are no longer realistic to ones that are and that sustain them through, and perhaps even enrich, the last chapter of their lives.
Most often that enrichment comes through connection. That connection may be with loved ones, friends or carers, and it is about feeling held, esteemed, nurtured, and paradoxically safe in the face of what is to come. I’ve seen it again and again, the transformation that happens through simply coming in to the hospice and being loved and cared for, without necessarily any significant change in treatments. We cannot change the ultimate outcome of death, but we can journey with them through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ (Psalm 23). And something beautiful happens, because we become part of their story and they become part of ours.
None of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself, or as John Donne put it, ‘no man is an island’. We talk a lot about patient-centred care, and quite rightly so. I recently saw a poster for a hospice care initiative entitled ‘All about me’, and it struck me that for most of the people I have cared for it absolutely isn’t! They are often more concerned about others, about their loved ones, about restoring relationships, about leaving behind a legacy that is framed in the context of its impact on those around them or still to come. I am frequently moved by the care and concern patients show for fellow patients in the hospice, and by the mutual support they derive from each other.
I alluded earlier to the Biblical image of the valley of the shadow of death, which is one I find helpful as it provides a metaphor of my own journey alongside those who are dying. In order for death to cast a shadow, there must be a source of light. For those with faith, and certainly for the Biblical author of that image, that light may be God. For others it will be something else, but as they journey towards the last days of life most people indeed have a glimmer of light in the corner of their mind. Sometimes the hospice is that light. As their story plays out it is that light, that hope, that can bring meaning and richness to their experience, and to those around them, and ideally guide them to a ‘good death’, which is what we are ultimately trying to achieve for them. But what is a good death? I’ll look at that next time.
St Luke’s and other hospices face major challenges going forward as we work out how to respond to the anticipated demographic changes in our society and the economic uncertainties. The hospice movement is 50 years old and its story has in many respects changed the narrative of the dying and bereaved in our society for the better. But movements peter out and influence wanes, and it is the next chapter that will determine whether in another fifty years time the story is alive and as positive as it is now, or just a footnote in history.
Perhaps the greatest challenge that healthcare faces is the ageing population. More people are living for longer, which is good news but this brings with it potential problems. More than one in five people in north, east and west Devon are over the age of 65, and by 2021 this will have risen to almost one in four. Nationally, by 2035 half of all people dying will be aged over 85. As we get older the likelihood of living and dying with more than one medical condition rises dramatically, with consequences on health and social care provision. For instance, the number of people with dementia is projected to double by 2051. And all this at a time when money is getting tighter. The NHS is already creaking at the seams, and hospices are feeling the squeeze as it becomes harder to raise money. It isn’t just a case of how we are going to pay for the necessary care, but also who is going to provide it and where?
One way for hospices to respond to the coming storm would be to focus on our buildings and beds, as it is often easier to raise funds for those, and provide a first class service to the handful of patients who end up dying with us. But that would be putting our heads in the sand, and it would diminish our impact on the bigger story. Only 5% of deaths happen in a hospice, and this proportion will reduce as the number of deaths rises. But times of great challenge are times of great opportunity. What if those with a terminal illness could be supported and receive excellent care wherever they are? What if you didn’t have to be in a hospice bed in order to be confident of having a good death?
At St Luke’s this has become our vision – a community where no person has to die alone, in pain or in distress. To achieve it we have embraced the concept of ‘hospice without walls’, taking the principles and values of hospice care into every care setting. A few years ago we reduced the number of our beds from twenty to twelve, to be prioritised for those patients who really need to be in a hospice bed, enabling us to invest in improving care in other settings. We launched a crisis team and have embarked on projects to reach out to the homeless community and those in prison.
We realise that we can’t reach everyone directly, so have invested in education and training for nursing homes and other professionals, and we are collaborating directly with other providers in the region. We are also embracing new technology to innovate and find new ways of providing care.
We also recognise that to achieve anywhere near our vision is going to require the whole community to engage with death and dying, and bring it out of the shadows and the remit of professionals alone. We all have a terminal condition – it is called life! There are already many community groups and individuals supporting those with terminal illness, and we need to support, encourage and multiply them.
Our hospices are national treasures, but if they are not to become white elephants we need to adapt to the changing environment. And perhaps public perception needs to change a little as well. When we give to, and fundraise for hospices, we need to understand that they represent far more than beds, available to check into should we or our loved ones ever need to – and that that’s okay, because there is so much more at stake here. It is about changing the story for the better for thousands of people every year for whom the reality of a terminal illness crashes in, changing the script of their anticipated future.