Having been a patient of the Haematology Department for the past ten years, I have nothing but praise for its dedicated staff who have treated me and my late wife with the utmost dignity.
Being an independent person, I was always able to cope with everything life threw at me. After losing my wife last year, having nursed her for the previous four years, life became a bit more difficult. Apart from the process of grieving, I seemed to be prone to all sorts of physical complications, which rendered me more dependent on others.
During my last spell at the RD&E, I was diagnosed with COPD following severe breathing difficulties. Two days after my discharge, I was due at Yarty day centre for a dose of maintenance treatment. On my arrival, Clare, the clinical specialist nurse, commented on my haggard appearance. She asked me if I was coping and whether I needed any support. She then told me about the Elf befriending scheme for East Devon. I was not aware of its existence, but became interested.
Debbie in the office put me in touch with Sue, the lady in charge of the team, and I was surprised to receive a call the following day to arrange a meeting at my home at a mutually convenient time.
Sue visited me the following day and we talked, which enabled her to choose a suitable befriender for me. Within a week Sue introduced me to Greg, who was to be my befriender. Her choice could not have been better, as Greg and I had a common interest, motorcycles. It had been years since I had ridden a bike myself but my interest had never faded. So we had a lot to talk about. Also, owing to my inability to walk by myself, having lost confidence, I was very grateful to Greg for walking with me down our lane. I was getting my confidence back.
Greg visited every week and he then he offered to take me for an outing. I did not feel up to at the time but looked forward to a future occasion. Imagine my dismay when I had a call from Sue telling me that Greg would not be able to see me for the time being as he was undergoing treatment himself. Greg also phoned me and I thanked him for his support and wished him well.
Soon afterwards, Sue said that she had found a new befriender and that she would introduce her to me. Imagine my surprise when Sue introduced me to Chris to discover that, like me, she was a poet and writer. We hit it off from the start, and her visits brighten my days, as we have so much in common. She even took me to Sidmouth for a long walk along the seafront and introduced me to her husband and her lovely little grandsons.
I did say at the beginning how grateful I was to all the staff at the department. All I can say now is that the befriending service of Elf is a wonderful and most welcome addition to a great service. It helps us who are receiving treatment, and who are feeling particularly vulnerable, plagued by anxieties and possible loneliness, to a more normal, acceptable life.
I would like to say thank you to Sue, Greg, Chris and all other befrienders who are giving up their time to help me and many others who require their help.