Dr Graham Brodie began volunteering his time to support Blythe House after retiring in 2010, following his role as a GP in Chapel-en-le-Frith for 30 years. His wife, Sonia, joined the volunteer team following her retirement from nursing in 2013. The couple, from Chapel-en-le-Frith, explain more about their roles…
Graham says: ‘It was great at first to enjoy walking and gardening any time I wanted, and not to have long surgeries and endless paperwork, but then I felt something was missing. I missed helping people and the fulfilment it brings, so I asked Blythe House if I could be a volunteer driver.
‘My role as a driver, under normal circumstances, involves collecting patients from their homes in the morning and taking them to Blythe House for day care, then collecting them from the hospice in the afternoon to return them home. We have some lovely chats en route and they are always very grateful. It gives me a warm feeling the fulfilment that was missing.
‘Blythe House staff are very friendly and supportive, offering regular training sessions where you can meet other volunteers, who come from all walks of life.
‘During lockdown, the role has been limited but we have been able to take vulnerable or elderly local people to clinics, and some volunteers have been helping with food shopping and getting prescriptions.
‘There are many different volunteer roles at Blythe House or their charity shops, and I would recommend considering this if you feel you have some free time and you’re looking for something to do to help others, especially if you feel something is missing!’
Sonia explained: ‘I have been a volunteer driver for Blythe House since I retired from district and practice nursing. I always felt I would do some volunteering for Blythe House in some form. I was very familiar with the valuable service they provided for the care of several of my patients. I also was indebted to the service of a bereavement counsellor after the death of my younger brother to cancer at the age of 43.
‘Graham had been driving since his retirement for three years previously and on some occasions he wasn’t able to drive and we felt I could help out too, to provide a more consistent availability. I have been the only female volunteer driver for the hospice prior to lockdown.
‘This became a regular twice weekly commitment and sometimes we shared the driving depending on the patient. I was happy to chat to women or gentlemen in the car whilst Graham drove, or vice versa. Sometimes, the two of us were able to assist the patients into the hospice, car and back into their homes.
‘I felt my previous career was helpful as I understood people’s personal needs, confidentiality and physical abilities. I could also ensure they had all the necessary aids and medication to allow them to enjoy and participate in the day care, for example hearing or walking aids, glasses and knitting needles.
‘I enjoyed being in contact with patients again, and although I could not give them professional advice, I could help them access the way to get help.
‘It was also nice to chat about day to day news; shopping and families, without any pressure to be back in professional work mode. The patients and their relatives have always been very grateful; it is a pleasure to help in a small way.
‘We always tried to give our monthly availability so that the nurses could call on us and ensure we were familiar with the patients and areas. It allowed us to go away on holiday without worry of the nurses trying to call us for a driver. You can also claim your mileage for driving, which is done through the hospice.
‘During lockdown, all has changed when day-care ceased due to COVID-19. We have volunteered to drive and take patients and other local people to appointments. It was good to be of use to the community during this difficult time and although I have not done any regular volunteering, I hope to be able to continue driving as before when the hospice is allowed to open up its excellent service again.’