A gratifying recognition of my life as a Volunteer
Today the management team of the Voluntary Services of London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust came home to acknowledge and thank me for my voluntary work at Northwick Park Hospital for the last 20 years.
Despite my own disability and being in a wheelchair, I realised other people’s needs were greater than mine. I started volunteering in April 2000, every Tuesday and Friday from 6:00am to 5:00pm.
My inspiration was my grandmother, who, in September 1999 aged 92 and with Alzheimer’s, was admitted into Northwick Park Hospital because of an infection and dehydration. Early the following morning I received a phone call from the Ward Sister asking me to go in, as my grandmother had not slept all night, kept pulling the intravenous (IV) drip out and was wandering around the ward crying. She was very confused and traumatised because she was in a strange place with unfamiliar faces. I quickly got to my grandmother and managed to calm her down.
After lengthy discussion with the ward sister and because of my grandmother’s condition, it was decided that the ward would allow me to go in daily at 7:00am and stay with her till she had fallen asleep by around 10:00pm. Unfortunately, she was also not allowing any of the nurses to come near her, so with their guidance I took on the duties of feeding her, getting her to hydrate with sips of water, administering her medication, giving her a wash and tending to her toilet needs. She was much calmer with me being next to her. After 21 days and fully recovered, she was discharged home.
However, during the 3 weeks of being with her and seeing the difficulties my grandmother faced, it made me think of how many other elderly patients, with communication difficulties and no family member around, would be in the same situation. This was a real eye-opener for me. Six months later, my grandmother passed away at home and on the day of her funeral, just before the cremation, I said a prayer for her final journey and took a vow to help patients in the hospital in her memory.
Over the years, I have worked with various hospital departments, helping with administration work as well as supporting patients. I was nominated as a Jain representative by the hospital Chaplaincy and became a patient buddy, visiting and supporting in-patients who have few or no visitors. Being able to make them smile and feel loved is so heart-warming.
There have also been emotional times when I have been with patients at their last moments, yet it has been very satisfying that I have been able to recite prayers for them. Through my work I have made many friends within the community at large.
The management team have been very supportive and appreciative of my work and in 2013, I was given the “Volunteer of the Year” award. My work makes me forget my own pain and it’s filled my life with so much inner satisfaction and the reward is priceless. Of course a big thank you to my family for their support and encouragement to enable me to do my work.
Unfortunately, due to Covid19, the hospital is protecting all their volunteers, therefore I have not been able to go to the hospital to help since March 2020. I am so looking forward to going back and resuming my work.
Please feel free to share this message with your family and friends so we can inspire everyone to come forward and volunteer.
A little help goes a long way!
Manav Seva is my Dharma!
By: Jatin Amratlal Narshi Manek Shah, London, UK