Kathy and Anne’s Story

IPU volunteers, Kathy and Anne, developed a touching friendship when they crossed paths volunteering. They tell their story...

Kathy and Anne’s Story

Kathy and Anne have got a lot out of their roles as IPU volunteers, including their heartwarming friendship. We spoke to them about their role and what volunteering means to them..

Against a background of light jazz music, Kathy and Anne take a well-earned break from their role as IPU volunteers, to talk about what the role means to them and why they enjoy it.  

Anne begins: “We always have music playing on a Thursday morning.” Which perfectly sets the tone for how this duo approach their role – with great timing and a light nature.   

Anne explains that she has been volunteering since 2009. “I had been made to retire a few years earlier from my job as a school secretary. I did a few part time jobs after that but when they dried up I started to feel depressed. I went to see my GP and he printed off an application form for me to volunteer at Peace Hospice. And the rest is history. At first I was a trainee and I worked with other, more experienced volunteers to learn the ropes. Then I specified the day and time I’d like to volunteer each week and eventually I was allocated the same shift as Kathy.” 

Talking about when they first worked together, Kathy explains: “we immediately got on like a house on fire. I had worked as a head teacher before I retired. So we both know what’s what. It might look like a head teacher is in charge of a school but really it’s a school secretary who knows what is happening! We’re both on the same wavelength and we just immediately got on.  

“We work really well as a team. If I forget to do something I know Anne will already be on it. And vice versa.” 

Teamwork is something that has been even more important since Anne’s health meant she needed to change the way she works. Anne says: “I was ill in February of this year. I only missed two weeks of volunteering! But since then I need to take things easy. I can’t be walking up and down the unit like I used to so Kathy does a lot of the walking around and I do the kitchen-based jobs.  

“We come in early each time we’re on a shift to help the nurses serve breakfast to patients. After that we clear up and I do the washing up in the kitchen. Then we deliver fresh water jugs to each patient’s room. We even have our routines for that! Kathy pushes the trolley with the fresh water jugs and I go in to each room to take out the old one and deliver the new one. Kathy then ticks off on her list to make sure we get round to every patient.” 

Kathy and Anne both agree that one of the things they enjoy most about the role is the time spent with patients. Anne says: “We can sometimes get quite attached to patients, especially if they’re here for a long time. All the doctors and nurses here are absolutely wonderful but I think patients enjoy chatting to someone who is not clinical. We’re not there for any medical reason and as volunteers we have time, so we can just spend a while chatting to them in their room. I think a lot of patients really enjoy that. 

“One of our jobs is to take patients’ lunch orders. There are specific items on the menu but if they don’t fancy or couldn’t manage what’s on offer, we’ll chat to them and encourage them to try something else. Maybe a sandwich or a baked potato. Sometimes patients arrive here and they’ve barely eaten for weeks. The chef here is just wonderful and so open to adapting things to patients’ needs so it’s really rewarding when we see patients start to eat again.” 

Kathy says: “When people hear where I volunteer they often say ‘oh dear that must be very depressing’ but that’s really not the case. The unit is such an uplifting place.” 

When asked what they get out of their role Anne replies without hesitation: “Thursday [when I volunteer] is my favourite day of the week! It’s such a worthwhile thing to do. When you’re getting older and sitting at home you can feel like you’re not doing anything. When I come here I’m doing something to help others. Everybody is so lovely and I enjoy everything about our shifts.” 

Kathy adds: “It really gives the week some structure. It’s nice to see the same staff and volunteers when we’re in. There’s a volunteer nurse on the unit on Thursday mornings and we really enjoy working with her, too. We’ve all become good friends.” 

It’s clear that friendship is something that Kathy and Anne both get from their volunteering. Anne says: “We get on so well and we often tease each other or have banter during our shift. As well as seeing each other when we’re volunteering, Kathy came to my 80th birthday party last year.” 

At which Kathy adds: “That was an amazing party!” 

The two friends don’t live particularly near to each other but stay in touch via social media between shifts. Anne also offers Kathy a lift home after their shifts, especially if it’s raining! 

With a total of thirty years’ volunteering between them, Kathy and Anne have given a huge amount to the patients, families and staff at the Inpatient Unit. It’s also clear that they’ve gained a lot in return – in the form of friendship, purpose and a sense of wellbeing.