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"You were a little shining light at a dark time"

Amazing stories aren’t always born from our work with patients and families, often they’re found in the generosity of our partners, and sometimes it’s the combination of the two that really gives us something to shout about. The SEC Recruitment Charity of the Year partnership is a great example of this, with the London-based company choosing us as their inaugural charity of the year after employee, Mark Wilkins, was directly affected by our work.

For 35-year-old Mark, from Maidenhead, having the Hospice 10 minutes down the road made all the difference to the time his family could spend together at the end of his dad’s life. It was this care that inspired Mark to nominate us as SEC’s Charity of the Year, and with the team raising more than £4,000 and counting, they are ensuring we can continue caring for local families just like Mark’s.

I was with my dad when we found that he had a place at the Hospice, and that was the best news – we were relieved. We were happy because of the Hospice’s reputation; we have had friends there in the past and I knew it was a fantastic place,” Mark explained.

Neal Wilkins was an outgoing, vivacious man, well-known in the local area as well as in the horseracing world in which he’d been a fixture for over 50 years. A passionate Arsenal supporter, he loved his family and he loved life. When Neal was just 68, he was diagnosed with liver disease and was admitted to Thames Hospice four weeks before his death in November 2016. Of the care Neal received - largely symptom control and pain management - Mark told us: “He would say it was ’different gravy’– it was a good compliment, it means it was a different class. He liked everyone here, they were really nice to him and they really looked after him anytime of the day. I was mainly here at night because I had work during the day, and it was the cups of tea, sitting in the room and chatting that made the difference. He had quite a string of visitors, so it was good that you could come by at any time of the day.”

He continued: “There is a nice and relaxing atmosphere here. A hospital is a noisy, busy place you should go to get treatment, not where you should be at the end of your life. Having dad here was comforting. You were reliable. I didn’t have to worry about things with regards to caring for my dad; I was able to just be with him rather than worrying about whether he was comfortable or getting the right care. That’s what you get here that you wouldn’t get anywhere else, the comfort of knowing you don’t have to worry about them being in pain; you can just focus on having a chat or being with them and it helps to start the grieving process off. Although it was inevitable he was going to die, I didn’t see coming here as being that inevitability – I thought ‘oh good, he is going to the best place and will go in the best kind of way’. You were a little shining light at a dark time.”

In March 2017 Mark heard SEC – the leading life sciences and IT specialist recruitment business where he has worked for six years - were looking to support a charity and he nominated Thames Hospice. We were selected following a staff vote and the team pledged to raise an incredible £4,500 - enough to fund a specialist, pressure-relieving mattress for the most seriously ill patients staying on our Inpatient unit. The team of around 70 appointed a Social Committee to plan the year’s fundraising activities, coming up with ideas including a company casino night and bake-off. On top of this, employees took on their own challenges, such as the Berlin Marathon and Great North Run.

As with any great partnership, it’s not only been beneficial for Thames Hospice. Mark said: “It’s for charity, but we are actually doing it as a bit of fun and we’re raising money at the same time; doing this has actually been a real team bonding exercise. We also use the partnership to show potential employees that it’s not just about work here; we do all sorts of good things. We look at it as a good place to work as well as a recruitment business and Charity of the Year is the elevation of that. I think everyone’s enjoyed it.”

Sharing more of his experiences of Thames Hospice, Mark told us: “The staff enjoy working here, it’s not just a job. I don’t know anyone who’s had a bad experience here and that says it all.

“We all had support while we were here. The nurses were always there for a cup of tea, and that sometimes means more than anything else. On the morning my dad died, I just needed someone to make me a cup of tea, to just sit with me and talk through what would happen and what needed to happen next. It wasn’t forced down me, but I was offered that information and that helped – talking through the process takes that stress and worry off of you. If you are able to come here or somewhere like this, I would recommend it.

“I haven’t taken the counselling support up, but it has been offered and I know if I needed it I’d be able to reach out, no problem. We talk about dad a lot and try to focus on the memories - all good memories might I add. I was very fortunate to have him as a dad and I miss him.”

If you have been inspired by Mark’s story and would like to know more about how your organisation could work with Thames Hospice, email Mary-Ann Leader.

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