"I feel like volunteering has helped me overcome my fear of hospitals."
02 June 2023
When I was nine years old I witnessed a fatal motorcycle accident. At the time, I didn’t realise what impact it had on me – when you’re that age you don’t – and afterwards I couldn’t face going into a hospital.
Even when my dad had heart attacks I’d drive my mum to hospital and I would wave at him from the car park. He could have died and you wouldn’t be able to get me in there.
I was doing U-turns on major roads to avoid ambulances after an accident. It was so bad, I even went to a therapist who brought me to the entrance of St Mary’s Hospital and he couldn’t even get me through the front door.
"I’ve got a friend who’s a doctor here who has known about my phobia for years and she’s just so shocked."
Fiona, Meet and Greet Volunteer at St Mary's Hospital
Things started changing when a friend was unwell in another hospital and I said to myself: ‘If I can overcome this horrible phobia and fear, if I can get in there, I can go and buy myself something as a present’.
I ended up going in just as a patient on a trolley arrived, and I did it. I was euphoric. I went in every day for about three months, and gradually since then it’s gotten easier.
On my first shift at St Mary’s Hospital I was nervous about what the staff would think, and day by day it’s just got better and better.
I feel like volunteering has helped me overcome my fear of hospitals. I can’t believe that I’m now happy to go onto the A&E ward. I’ve got a friend who’s a doctor here who has known about my phobia for years and she’s just so shocked.
To anyone thinking of volunteering, I’d say: do it! I really like interacting with a huge range of NHS staff and volunteers. It’s a really great team here – everybody’s extraordinarily kind and helpful.
Because the layout of the hospital site is so complex, some visitors are obviously nervous and they’re very grateful and happy to see a volunteer who can guide them. I think about five people have asked me about volunteering here because they’ve liked the way I’ve been with them!
Everybody’s under enormous amounts of pressure but there’s a good sense of humour and everyone’s really nice. Things are always different because things are always changing, and I quite like that.
To find out more about volunteering at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, click here.