Helping our patients: Rodney’s story

At the start of the pandemic, Rodney became seriously unwell. He was advised that he would need a liver transplant. Rodney was referred to the Royal Free Charity’s volunteer check-in-and chat programme, to be connected with one of our friendly volunteers. He was paired up with volunteer Jonathan, and then later, Alison.

Rodney’s feedback

When support hub lead, Liz, spoke to him about the programme, Rodney said:

“At first I thought ‘what’s the point in this? I’ve got a psychiatrist, I don’t need this.’ But actually… it was great. They [the volunteers] talk to you on your level. They’re not a doctor, or a psychologist, they’re more like a friend; someone to listen to you. It helps that you don’t know them either; it’s actually easier than talking to a friend in a way. I was so lucky both times with the people I was paired with.

“It’s nice having someone to talk to – to get my frustrations and worries out.

“Where many of my friends haven’t stuck around, or where friends would run a mile – the volunteer will listen to you, they’ll always ask how I’m getting on – and if I’ve got any appointments coming up. It feels like they care and are interested.

“The support hub has also helped me through their welfare rights advice service. I was supported with the process of applying for a [PIP] benefit as I’m no longer able to work. I didn’t want to apply, but my advisor encouraged me that it was ok. She helped me with the application, and I’ve got my appointment on Monday. The team have also advised me about travel expenses and connected me with the hospital patient advice and liaison (PALs) team so I can discuss the location of my appointments.

“I can be up all night in pain, and have very little sleep, so the help here is so appreciated.

“I really can’t fault the service.

The volunteer perspective

Alison, a check-in-and chat volunteer, said: “It was a genuine pleasure getting to know Rodney through our weekly conversations, which his mum also joined in with! We both looked forward to our chats… and lots of our conversations were about our favourite foods.

“I loved Rodney’s way of warmly saying “Oh ‘ello mate!” when I called, and his good humour, even when he was feeling very under the weather. We discussed his progress towards becoming well – and how to have constructive conversations at the hospital to help himself when things felt frustrating.

“My outstanding memory of calling Rodney is the call I made on the evening the Queen died. We were both simultaneously watching the unfolding news on tv at home and our conversation stopped and started as we heard the sad developments and became tearful. Rodney said, very kindly: ‘It’s ok mate, I understand. You can hang up now and we’ll talk next week. You’ll be all right.’ On other occasions he had me laughing so much that I cried. I will miss our chats and I’m so pleased Rodney enjoyed talking to me. I wish him all the best – he is smashing!”