During the week, Richard works full time as a town planner for a large architectural firm but on the weekend, he’s part of a team making a big difference for patients on the neuro-rehab unit at Charing Cross.
Patients can suffer from a wide range of neurological conditions, including stroke, brain tumours and multiple sclerosis and often have lengthy stays throughout their rehabilitation process.
On Monday to Friday they undergo intensive therapy sessions but on the weekend, boredom can set in, especially for patients with no family members close by. By keeping the patients entertained and stimulating their brains through board games, music and socialising, Patients Activities Volunteers like Richard play a crucial part in the patients’ recovery.
He decided to get involved with the charity after spending three months in the same hospital with a brain injury. “I can empathise with them quite a lot because I was in a very similar situation,” he said.
“I can understand the frustration that some of the patients have on the ward when there isn’t the occupational therapy that would take place during the week or there perhaps aren’t visitations from friends or family.”
“When it came to weekends and evenings I felt that I should not be there basically, I felt completely fit and able. In retrospect, mentally I certainly wasn’t. I tried to escape from hospital on two occasions and got as far as the front door and security. I thought I was fully recovered and that was it, I was fine. I can say in retrospect that wasn’t that case”.
When Richard was discharged, he says he felt immense gratitude to the staff and when he later found out about volunteering opportunities on the same ward, he jumped at the chance.
Having been treated in the hospital before the Patients Activities Volunteers were introduced, Richard is in a unique position to appreciate the difference they make.
“I think I would have found the group activities quite helpful. I’m not a group person but with the brain injury that I had and seeing some of the similar instances of patients that we deal with on a fortnightly basis, I’d like to think that even just talking to the group can help in the long-term.”
“It’s very endearing when you go back and see patients that you saw two weeks ago and can sense a difference in their talkativeness or their willingness to interact within the group, that’s really satisfying.”
If you’d like to get involved or find out more about volunteering with the charity, visit www.imperialcharity.org.uk/volunteer