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13 Oct 2023 Volunteer News

Pamela’s volunteering story

The Kirkwood is a community of people who come together to help care for those who are dealing with life limiting illnesses. One of the biggest parts of our movement are our volunteers.  We have over 800 volunteers who work hard to help keep our charity running. One such dedicated volunteer is Pamela Laking who has been with us for a few years now. 

Pamela in her sixties is a huge help throughout the week as she does a number of roles in her daily volunteering duties. She first wanted to become a volunteer before the Covid-19 Pandemic, however due to the national lockdown Pam had to wait until after the lockdown had finished to become a fully fledged volunteer. 

Pam has a very emotional story which connects her to our charity, back in 2013 her husband Derek was receiving treatment by our amazing nurses. He sadly died in January 2014 but she never forgot the care our team provided her and Derek at that difficult time. 

She said: "The Kirkwood is an amazing charity which I am truly proud to be part of. Back in 2013 The Kirkwood clinical staff looked after Derek and the care they provided was outstanding. I admire the network of people that work for the charity who have different skill sets that make the whole experience so comforting." 

Pam met Derek in 2010, the pair got married a year later, in what was a whirlwind romance. After a visit to hospital the couple were devastatingly told he was terminally ill with cancer in 2013, just two years into their marriage. Derek would die just six months later in January 2014 having been diagnosed with stage four cancer. Derek wanted to be nursed at home, Pam who was a former nurse herself tried her very best to make Derek's last few months as comfortable as possible with the help from The Kirkwood nurses who were helping Derek to control his pain.

Pam remembers specific things that happened around that time, she explained: "I will always remember the Christmas of 2013, Derek said he wanted to be at home on Christmas day. So The Kirkwood staff let him have a day release and we took him to my daughters house. By the time we got there The Kirkwood had arranged for us to have oxygen at her house. We had a good time and then when we came back to the site in Dalton, Derek said he wanted to go home. 

"I didn't really know what to think as it was a bank holiday. The Kirkwood staff said give us the keys to your house and we'll make sure he can go home. I handed my keys over to them. We went home on boxing day and the staff had arranged for everything he might need to be set up, a bed and a chair in the lounge plus other things. It was actually mind-blowing the amount of effort they had gone to, to make sure I could nurse him at home. So for me if there is ever a cause I want to give back to it is this one because they are just amazing.

"Before The Kirkwood cared for Derek I didn't think hospices were very nice places, I thought they would be sad, and dark places and not somewhere I'd ever want my children to be. However from the moment we walked through the doors, I realised how beautiful hospices can be, how happy they are, how caring everyone is. That it isn't dark and gloomy it is the opposite. 

"After Derek died I had to rebuild my life and move on. I did come to some of the support sessions which really helped. I am now happily married again and my current husband supports me in what I do for The Kirkwood because he knows what this charity means to me."

As well as losing her husband Derek, Pam's daughter Emma recently died just 40 years old leaving behind three children herself. 

On her daughter's death Pam said: "When you lose a child it is the most horrific experience. Losing Derek was terrible, but losing Emma was just unimaginable. When Derek died I had time to process things even though it was quick, but because Emma died suddenly it was a real shock. Emma had Fibromyalgia and the coroner's inquest said it was a build up of medication which eventually led her to have multi-organ failure. She started with chest pains and thought it was an anxiety attack, they did blood tests at the hospital and rang us straight away saying her body is going into total organ failure. I just couldn't believe what was happening, I have found it difficult since Emma's death." 

Despite the challenges Pam has faced and the grieving processes she has had to go through, she has continued to do her utmost in her role as a volunteer with The Kirkwood. 

Pam is very proud to volunteer for The Kirkwood and she enjoys the duties she does. However in time she would like to become a volunteer counselor. 

She said: "When I first wanted to volunteer for The Kirkwood I wanted to be a counselor, and I still might become that, however due to losing Emma that is hard right now. 

"I have done lots of jobs since I have started volunteering here from helping on the In-Patient Unit to doing admin work. You feel valued as a volunteer with The Kirkwood. There are lots of thanks and people appreciate what you are doing here. So the whole organisation and charity is together and that is why I am so proud to be part of it.

"My long term goal is to just help out whenever and wherever I can. I have lots of skill sets and I am willing to give most things a go." 

Finally Pam would encourage anyone to get involved in volunteering for The Kirkwood by saying: "The Kirkwood supported me through a very tough time and to me they had my back when I was going through a difficult moment. I wanted to give something back and volunteer by giving my time and effort towards something I truly am passionate about and believe in." 

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