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Talented local Plymouth band SuperXLs have been supporting St Luke’s for the past 3 years, by showcasing their musical tribute to the late, great, David Bowie every January. To date the band has raised almost £2000 from those shows alone. The band is made up of five great local fundraising heroes called Ben, Mark, Leo, Jon and Phin.

On the 3 May, the SuperXLs premiered their isolation video to thank frontline workers fighting covid-19. The song titled ‘Heroes for Heroes’ has raised just under £2000 for St Luke’s, ensuring local families get the care and support that they need at end of life.

Mark Trewin from SuperXLs said, “We had to do something as a tribute to all the frontline heroes working so hard in our community during these challenging times” Mark continued “St Luke’s was the obvious choice to raise money for. One of the band members has a family member being currently cared for by the hospice, so it has a personal connection too and is even more meaningful to gift our time and raise much needed funds.”

The band are urging people to watch their video on YouTube and make a donation of support.

Penny Hannah, Head of Fundraising at St Luke’s, said “The video is best enjoyed with a drink in hand and the sound up loud, the emotional introduction had me and my family in tears, so much passion shared by the band. The words of the song are very powerful and thought provoking, and the images shared of our incredible nurses. I know the challenges our nurses and doctors are faced in these unprecedented times to care for over 300 families in and around our City, it really is heart touching.

“I would like to thank the band for their support and everyone who has donated to the JustGiving page and throughout the pandemic. We really need your support and we are so very grateful, thank you for caring.”

Leaping 15,000 feet from a plane is an exhilarating way to raise funds for our patient care, but what motivates someone to embrace a challenge many would find too daunting?

For nursery worker Rosie Pryce, 23, it is the memory of her much-loved grandad David, who was looked after at Turnchapel before sadly, he died last November, aged 86. Thanks to the outstanding quality of the care David received after he was transferred from hospital to our specialist unit, Rosie is taking on a skydive as her way of thanking our charity for making his last days of life so peaceful and comfortable.

She said: “Grandad was very frail and his condition was deteriorating so he chose not to have anyone visit him at the unit except my grandma Sylvia and their three children, including my dad Kevin. While it was very hard knowing he was so poorly, it was such a comfort hearing from them that he was being looked after by nurses they described as ‘angels’ whose care they said was ‘perfect’.

“I was so reassured to know grandad was in the best possible place for him, with the privacy of a room where grandma could stay by his side day and night. They were childhood sweethearts and married 64 years so spending this precious time together in such an uplifting environment really made a difference to them both at a difficult time.

“The St Luke’s team made sure grandad was pain free, and the nurses were so kind. They turned his bed so he could enjoy the wonderful views out across the water because they heard how he was mad about all things coastal and once owned a boat.

“I have happy memories of days spent with him by the sea, and his love of outdoor swimming was legendary, so it means a lot to know that he could take in a view that was so meaningful to him.”

“When I heard about the opportunity to do a skydive to raise money to give something back to St Luke’s, it really appealed to me. I’m quite a thrill-seeker anyway and felt like I wanted to do something remarkable for grandad because he was such a kind and special person who always had time for me.

“He was a practical joker and that fun-loving side has rubbed off on all our family. Although it’s a big leap, I think the skydive will be great fun so it’s a fitting way to remember grandad and do good for other local families who need the help of St Luke’s.”

Thank you, Rosie – we really appreciate you taking the plunge for our charity!

With this week, being not just the start of the new year but a whole new decade, many will be looking to set goals for themselves or even take on an exciting challenge for 2020 – or beyond!

What better way to push yourself out of your comfort zone than by getting involved in a challenging and exciting event that also benefits your community? We are urging you to put your best foot forward, take a leap or even scale the world’s longest manmade structure to raise funds that ensures care in our community

Today, we have launched not just one but two of our most popular flagship events, Men’s Day Out and Midnight Walk, giving people the chance to celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones while raising much-needed income that helps families make memories together when time is running short.

Men’s Day Out, is loved for the rugby, banter and camaraderie and the unity of walking together raises thousands for St Luke’s. Officially, the region’s biggest men-only sponsored event for charity is back this Saturday 28 March. The event, which is Powered by IU Energy, will see guys gather for a day to remember, striding the city streets before they return to Plymouth Albion RFC for a well-earned pasty and pint and the not-be-missed clash between the home team and their Richmond rivals.

Meanwhile, St Luke’s is inviting ladies to turn Plymouth pink on Saturday 11 July, when its popular Midnight Walk returns. This year, the much-anticipated event, which is sponsored by Nash & Co Solicitors, includes a new challenge – 20 miles for 2020 commencing at 20:20 hrs – in addition to the new 5 and 10-mile routes. That’s not all that’s new, because this year walkers will set off from Home Park (Plymouth Argyle FC) and all will be wearing Midnight Walk’s signature bright pink t-shirts. As always, it promises to be a great night out with the girls, with many walking in memory of loved ones.

Nina Wearne, Community and Events Fundraising Manager at St Luke’s, said: “Whether you take part in Men’s Day Out or Midnight Walk as a personal challenge or to celebrate the life of someone special, please know that St Luke’s could not do what they do without the support from you, our kind-hearted community. Perhaps this is your first time, or maybe it’s an event you enjoy year after year; these events are a fantastic way to have loads of fun whilst making a vital difference for local families.”

For those who’d prefer to take the plunge to show their support for St Luke’s, there are opportunities to take part in an exhilarating skydive on Saturday 21 March sponsored by BT Local Business. The 15,000ft leap is free for those who raise a minimum of £395 in sponsorship.

Looking further ahead – a once-in-a-lifetime challenge – The Great Wall of China Trek is taking place from 6 to 14 November 2021, offering participants an unforgettable adventure. Those who are interested are invited to attend an information evening on Tuesday 11 February 2020 to find out more but don’t hold back as registration is already open.

Nina Wearne said: “As well as being a mesmerising experience hiking along one of the most famous structures in the world, this is an opportunity to soak up China’s vast variations in landscape, culture, wildlife and heritage – not to mention cuisine! It’s a fantastic way to do something different and also make a difference.”

Details of these and all St Luke’s flagship fundraising events are available here.

Martin York, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer at the age of 55, has spoken out to urge men to be vigilant in checking for symptoms of the disease and not let embarrassment keep them from getting the simple check-ups that could save their lives. He wants to leave a legacy to the men of the city to help protect their health.

With prostate cancer affecting 1 in 8 men, Martin is passionate about spreading the message that, while the disease tends to occur in those aged over 65, younger men are also at risk and that getting diagnosed early can improve the prognosis for those who have the condition.

Martin said, “I was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 2017, and the disease had been doing its worst inside my body for three to four years so I went straight onto chemotherapy. It was very debilitating and I spent most of the next five months in bed.”

A keen Plymouth Argyle FC supporter, Martin was keen to give something back to the club and at their invitation spoke to the players in the dressing room to share his story and help raise awareness of prostate cancer and its symptoms.

He said: “Men don’t like talking about anything below their belts, which is ridiculous. It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for others. If you’re in any doubt at all, see your GP for a simple check-up.”

Martin, who has been married to Penny for 24 years, came into the care of St Luke’s expert team when he needed help to control his pain and was admitted to the our specialist unit at Turnchapel.

Just as passionate about debunking unhelpful myths around hospice care as he is about urging men to prioritise their health, he said: “I went in not knowing what it would be like, but I was very pleasantly surprised how friendly, light and airy the unit was. It was like a five-star hotel.”

St Luke’s specialist care and support for Martin did not stop when he made the decision to be discharged home. Thanks to the charity’s multidisciplinary At Home team, which looks after half of all the patients St Luke’s sees across Plymouth, South West Devon and East Cornwall, everything was in place to make his transition from the unit as smooth as possible.

Penny said: “A lot of people think that when you go into the hospice building, you’re never coming out again. This couldn’t have been further from the truth for Martin, and it was his choice to come home. The day he returned was remarkable, with all the kit already in place, thanks to St Luke’s occupational therapist Shaen. He made sure Martin had everything that was needed, from easy chairs and hoists to a special bed.

“Martin is a very special man, I will always be grateful to St Luke’s for this gift they’ve given us – Martin at home where he belongs so we can have this precious time together knowing that if we need it, help is just a phone call away. The kindness and sensitivity of the team is making such a difference to us at a really difficult time.

“I am incredibly proud of Martin and want to echo his words to other men: If you have even the slightest concern that something is wrong ‘downstairs’, go straight to see your GP. It could save your life.”

The launch of the city-wide partnership showed how aspiration is being turned into action across Plymouth, benefitting people at end of life.

Back in May 2018, at the Plymouth: a Compassionate City conference hosted by St Luke’s and attended by organisations ranging from schools and places of worship to solicitors and voluntary groups, keynote speaker Professor Allan Kellehear threw down a challenge to those present, saying: “Every day, people die and hearts are broken. Death and dying are more than medical issues and caring for those affected is not just the role of the doctor and the chaplain. End of life care is everyone’s responsibility and we all have a practical role to play.”

This rallying call to build on the good work already happening across Plymouth to make our city a more compassionate place for people at end of life, and those caring for them, was met with overwhelming support. So, nearly 18 months on, at the launch of the End of Life Compassionate City Charter Professor Kellehear urged Plymouth to adopt, it was an opportunity to see how groups and organisations have been working together, turning aspiration into action so that no-one feels left behind.

Having a city-wide end of life network working in partnership with the City Council, as well as other public bodies and local charities, is already beginning to ensure that Plymouth is a city that does not shy away from the ‘taboo’ subjects of death, dying and bereavement but talks openly about them. In fact, Plymouth has the accolade of being recognised at England’s first Compassionate City, but this is just the beginning.

The Compassionate City initiative is being led and co-ordinated by Gail Wilson, Deputy Director of Clinical Services at St Luke’s. Gail said: “Across the city and the wider communities there are many examples of individuals and groups going the extra mile to support people during times of sickness, bereavement and loss, from providing a listening ear to helping with practical things such as walking the dog and collecting shopping.

“I have been amazed by what various organisations and individuals across the city have achieved in the past 18 months, with the support of the compassionate community team at St Luke’s . This is a really a great start but there is much more to do, so I would encourage anybody who wants to be involved to sign up to the network and join us, so together we can create compassionate networks where we live and work so that no-one at end of life or experiencing bereavement and loss feels isolated or alone.”

Steve Statham, Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We have a key role to play in supporting our community and networks in times of crisis and loss. This charter is about how we can work together towards extending the support we give to people at a most difficult time in their life”.

Ruth Harrell, Director of Public Health for Plymouth, said: “By taking a public health approach to end of life care, we can give a voice to all those affected by death, dying, bereavement and loss and work together to create a city that does not shy away from their needs but provides a compassionate collective response.”

Did you know that nationally, 64% of charity trustees are men and that the average age of a trustee is 61? (Source)

We’re pleased to say our board is more diverse, but we’re striving to ensure it is truly representative of the community St Luke’s serves. That’s why – with it being national Trustees’ Week (4 – 8 November) – we not only want to thank the dedicated men and women who kindly give their skills and time free of charge to govern and guide our charity, but also highlight the opportunity for you to join them.

With the recent launch of our five-year strategy setting out our ambitious goals for the next half-decade, it’s a particularly exciting time to get involved as part of our Board of Trustees.

Trustee, Charles Hackett, said: “Being a trustee at St Luke’s supports my personal development but more importantly allows me to use my skills to help, in some way, the community in which I live.”

Being a trustee with St Luke’s can be rewarding for many reasons, including a sense of making a difference with a well-respected charity that touches the lives of local families to gaining new experiences and forging new relationships. (For an insight into our recent work, take a look at our latest impact report.)

Fiona Field, who sits on the Organisational Risk and Audit Committee and chairs the Health & Safety Committee, said: “I give about one day per month on average, this is divided between being a member of the board, chairing the health and safety committee, visiting teams across St Luke’s and taking part in some of the fundraising activities. I have regularly attended the Open Gardens in the summertime, sold programmes on Plymouth Hoe at the Firework Championships and walked the Elmer Trail. I am also the named trustee for both the Launceston and Tavistock retail shops so visit them both periodically, usually buying something on every visit as well!

“I find the work interesting and rewarding and I am always proud to talk to others about the brilliant work that everyone at St Luke’s does for such a worthy cause. I am keen that the services St Luke’s offers continue to be of the highest quality possible for our patients and their families locally.”

We’re seeking people with the knowledge, skills and motivation to help ensure that as St Luke’s evolves, we continue to make wise decisions that mean we can meet the challenges ahead, including reaching underrepresented groups who sometimes struggle to be heard.

As well as contributing to board meetings, you’ll have the opportunity to use your skills with a sub-committee that makes best use of your specific area of expertise. There’ll also be opportunities to further your experience through hearing from guest speakers and attending national conferences.

If you have a background in community development, including education, or in HR, we’re particularly keen to hear from you.

For more information, please contact Sarah Gore at sgore@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

First impressions matter and at our specialist unit at Turnchapel, there’s a team member who not only makes sure everyone who walks through our door receives a friendly welcome when they visit a loved one in the evening, or stay overnight, but can empathise with our hardworking clinical team, too.

When Andy Campbell first joined St Luke’s 32 years ago it was as a Healthcare Assistant, a role he later combined with his job as Support Officer with our charity until two years ago when he decided to focus on the latter, securing the building after the ‘day’ staff have gone home and doing much more besides.

Not only does Andy cover reception duties at Turnchapel during his regular 6.30 – 10.30pm shift, taking calls and greeting visitors, he ensures that both individuals and entire families spending time with their loved ones are comfortable, recognising that it’s often the ‘small’ things that can make a big difference to them at such a sad time.

Andy said: “I know our patients are looked after impeccably, so I see my role as keeping an eye out for those visiting them, who are often struggling even if they seem pretty calm on the surface.

“Whether they’re at Turnchapel for an hour or staying consecutive nights, there’s always something we can do to make them feel as relaxed as possible. Sometimes, just a friendly chat and a bit of banter is all it takes to show them they matter, while at others it’s about being practical and ordering their favourite takeaway so they can eat what they like while they’re here.”

So, from laying the tables ready for a family to enjoy a meal together to making up z-beds so they can stay close to their loved one through the night, Andy’s shifts revolve around the needs of our visitors so that they leave feeling better than when they arrived. Of all the families he has met in his many years with St Luke’s, it’s a particular mother and daughter who stand out in his memory.

Andy explains: “When a young woman who’d been receiving care was approaching the end of her life, she kept saying how much she desperately wanted to get a particular tattoo. Despite lots of phone calls, no local tattooists came forward to help so I contacted a friend of mine who’s properly qualified. He responded quickly and expertly created the exact tattoo she wanted, waiving his usual fee.

“Seeing how much it meant to this lady, who passed away just three days later, is something I’ve never forgotten. I know getting her wish helped her pass away peacefully and it gave her mum a lot of comfort, too.

“Being thoughtful and kind doesn’t cost us anything, but it can be priceless to the families we help. That’s why I always want to work for St Luke’s.”

 

With the help of a generous grant from Hospice UK, St Luke’s has been able to kick-start a compassionate community in Kingsbridge, Devon. The initiative ensures that no matter how far out you live, support will be available for those at end of life and those caring for them.

“I’m thrilled so many people have come forward to support me and my partner. The thought alone has made me feel less isolated and alone.”

As an older person living in a rural town, trying to care for your terminally ill partner while living with your own health conditions, you can easily feel forgotten, especially with no family close by to help. But – thanks to the innovative way St Luke’s is using grant funding awarded by Hospice UK – we’ve been making an important difference in the South Hams town of Kingsbridge, including to the 71-year-old lady quoted above.

Steve Statham, CEO at St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth said: “Thanks to significant funding from Hospice UK, we are breaking down taboos around death and dying and empowering people local people in the rural town of Kingsbridge, Devon to put compassion at the heart of the community so that no-one feels left behind. In a location like this, where it can be more difficult for people to access all kinds of services, including end of life care, local people, voluntary groups and businesses are coming together to show kindness and give practical support to terminally ill people and those caring for them who would otherwise risk isolation and loneliness.

“It isn’t just the financial help from Hospice UK that makes a difference though. The national platform the charity provides through its campaigns raises awareness of the challenges our sector faces, helps us recruit and retain staff, and highlights the ongoing need for Government investment in our services.”

Earlier this year, we reported on the appointment of Robyn Newport as St Luke’s Community Network Co-ordinator for Kingsbridge and surrounding areas, where our At Home team looks after terminally ill people nearing end of life, and supports their families.

Over the past ten months, Robyn has been busy getting to know residents, local business owners, voluntary groups and healthcare services to get more insight into what matters to them when it comes to terminal illness, looking after someone with a life-limiting diagnosis, and how the community has been impacted by loss.

The listening ears and helping hands of the Compassionate Friends trained have helped shape the Compassionate End of Life Care Community in Kingsbridge, which – being in a rural area – is all the more in need since those living there can find it harder to access services of all kinds, including the expert care that’s so vital when your time is running short.

Robyn said: “St Luke’s is committed to coming alongside the communities we serve to realise the potential of informal networks and develop more effective ways to provide support that enhances wellbeing, prevents loneliness and isolation and increases choice for people at the end of their life, so they can die in familiar surroundings with those they love.”

“It’s a been a real privilege getting to know so many people, and it’s clear there’s so much care and compassion in this area. We now have over 75 Compassionate Friends trained across the town – people who lend a helping hand or listening ear to friends and neighbours who have a terminal illness or are affected by loss. We also have Compassionate Friend Champions running awareness sessions and co-ordinators who can help families to organise additional support from local Compassionate Friends.

“Our training is helping people to talk more openly and honestly, helping to break down the taboos around death, dying and bereavement, and bust the unhelpful myths that surround them. They’re seeing how listening and having more compassionate conversations within their own circles, and doing small things to help people at times of crisis or loss, such as making them a meal or doing their shopping, can make a big difference.”

Local businesses are also stepping up to help customers and clients who might be in need of some support. Among them are HAC Hairdressing, Kingsbridge Youth for Christ, and Blooming Organised, a decluttering service.

Robyn has also come alongside Kingsbridge Community College, which is working towards becoming a Compassionate School. With her input, the school is developing and embedding bereavement policies and procedures, electing sixthformers as Compassionate Buddies, and an additional 220 Year 9 students have attended a Compassionate Buddies awareness session, ensuring no student facing loss feels left behind.

In the coming months, Robyn is looking to train more Compassionate Friends, Champions and Co-ordinators in the South Hams area and will continue to grow Compassionate Networks around those with a terminal diagnosis, as well as their loved ones. In addition, she is also working to launch the first Compassionate Café in the Kingsbridge area.

If you, or someone you know living in the area, could benefit from the support, or you would like to receive training so you can help, please contact St Luke’s Education team at education@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.

Rugby is renowned for being one of the toughest sports with players showing opponents no mercy, but in Plymouth there’s a ladies’ team proving that when it comes to one of their own, they’re all heart – and they’re even losing their locks for charity to show how much they care. 

Teammates of Plymstock Albion Oaks RFC player Maria Ashurst braved a sponsored head shave at the club last Saturday 19 October in aid of our charity. We provided expert care for Maria’s husband Paul, helping to make his last days as dignified and comfortable as possible as we looked after him at Derriford Hospital and at then at home in St Budeaux before sadly, he passed away in September.

It was an emotional day for Maria, who has been part of the ladies team for over eight years. Bus driver of 17 years and snooker fan Paul was her biggest supporter, even encouraging her to meet up with teammates while he was ill, and – joined by St Luke’s Healthcare Assistant, Penny – she made the first snips to the hair of fellow players, Gail Randall and Paula Sims of Lower Ham, as they went under the razor.

The duo have already smashed their target of raising £1,000 to help us continue our vital service caring for terminally ill people across the community and supporting their families.

It was following Paul’s diagnosis of cancer and admission to Derriford Hospital that our specialist team there cared for him, managing his symptoms, relieving his pain and providing emotional support for him and his family. With the team’s help – which included the installation of a hospital bed at the couple’s house – Paul was then able to return home, where he wanted to be.

Maria and Paul between them have five children, 13 grandchildren and two step-great grandchildren, the youngest of whom was born just three days before Paul died.

Maria said: “Paul was a wonderful man, who lived with several health conditions and was open about his mental health difficulties because he knew talking about it would help others. He was a huge Elvis fan and the way he sang his songs would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“Seeing him so ill was very hard, but I can’t thank St Luke’s enough for making it possible for him to be at home with me so I could look after him. As well as making sure all the right equipment was in place, from the doctors and nurses to the physios and occupational therapists, they were there at our door or at the end of the phone whenever we needed them.

“The way they explained everything and how quickly they responded was really reassuring – in fact the Urgent Care team came out seven times in 24 hours. Quite simply, they were just ‘on it’ and I couldn’t be more grateful. They made a massive difference right when we needed them most.”

Both throughout Paul’s illness and since he died, Maria has been uplifted by the unwavering support of her teammates, whom she calls her ‘second family’.

Teammate Gail Randall said, “It’s a really big commitment to have your head shaved. I have been told it changes your appearance quite a lot and it takes two years for our hair to grow back to the same length.”

Overseeing the head shave was Lacey Keating from Chameleons hair salon in Plymstock, with the hair donated to the Little Princess Trust who provide real hair wigs to children and young people with hair loss, and funding vital research into childhood cancer.

Gail reflected on the day. “It has been very emotional for us, knowing how much St Luke’s helped Maria and Paul in their time in need, we couldn’t be more thankful.”

As well as the sponsored head shave, the club is honouring Paul with a memorial rugby match at 2pm on Sunday 24 November, when the ladies team will take on their opponents from Devizes in a league match.

Maria said: “The girls have been amazing – they’re always there and I can always pick up the phone to them when I need to have a rant or a cry. The wider club has fantastic too, and the memorial match for Paul will be very special. It’s a chance for friends and family to come because he did not want a funeral.

“I didn’t know the club had chosen to raise money for St Luke’s but I’m so glad they have because they’ve done so much for Paul, me and the rest of the family.”

You can still donate online via the Plymstock Albion Oaks Facebook page.

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