‘Our work doesn’t stop at Christmas’ says volunteers at King’s College Hospital

Medics don’t stop working at Christmas – and patients don’t stop arriving on the wards. So this year, the South London Press is teaming up with King’s College Hospital Charity to highlight the work which consultants, doctors, nurses, clerical staff and everyone involved with the NHS has to do during the festive period. This week, Rebecca Kingdom-Kruszewski talks to Paul Straupmanis and Janet McKenner about volunteering at King’s after they both received life-saving treatment at the hospital.

March 12, 2014 was a day that changed Paul Strapumanis’ life.

Paul (pictured right), an architect from East Dulwich, was on his way to a meeting when he was involved in a serious car accident on the South Circular, just 10 minutes from his home.

Fire crews had to cut him out of his car and his injuries were severe. Paul arrived at King’s suffering a broken back, broken ribs, a crushed ankle and a damaged liver. Doctors had to rebuild his body.

Paul wasn’t even out of his body brace before he signed up as a volunteer on the ward where he was treated, Katherine Monk Ward, as a way of giving back for the care he received as a patient.

The ward specialises in caring for patients who are having surgery, many of whom are referred from the Emergency Department.

He’s able to draw on his own experience that allows him to empathise more with the patients he supports, many of whom have also suffered traumatic injuries.

Paul has been volunteering for more than four years, befriending patients and offering a listening ear, helping with catering and keeping patients up to date with what’s going on in the outside world.

“I enjoy speaking to patients who are in a similar position as I was and giving them comfort and hope towards getting better,” he says.

“Volunteering at King’s is one of the best things that I’ve ever done. I would not miss it for the world.” As the ward is within King’s trauma department, many patients come from across the country an Christmas can be a lonely time when travel prevents family and friends from visiting.

Paul reflected on last year, saying: “At Christmas time the doctors try to get patients home if they can but for those who remain on the ward, there is a festive atmosphere about the place with a Christmas tree, decorations and a special Christmas menu on Christmas Day.

“All the staff join in, no matter how busy they are. Staff all go the extra mile and always go out of their way to be helpful. I’m here to help them as well as the patients.

“I loved volunteering on Boxing Day.” More than 10 years ago Janet McKenner of Blackheath had a brain tumour removed and spent five days on Murray Faulkner Ward.

The ward cares for patients who are having brain or spine neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery.

In September 2017 Janet underwent pioneering proton beam therapy in America, in partnership with King’s College Hospital, to treat a second tumour.

Janet (pictured left) started volunteering in April this year, to also give back to the ward where she received care. Janet said: “Visiting daily can be hard for patients’ family and friends.

As well as befriending patients I chat to family and friends, who are often worried and tired. It’s a worthwhile feeling that I’ve been able to reassure and comfort them at such a difficult time.”

King’s is a centre of volunteer excellence, something that everyone involved is extremely proud of. The extra care and support that volunteers provide enables us to go above and beyond to ensure the best possible experience for patients at King’s.”

If you are interested in volunteering at King’s visit: www.kch.nhs.uk/about/ get-involved/volunteering. You can support your hospital this Christmas by sponsoring a light on our Christmas tree, simply fill in the form or go online: www.supportkings.org.uk/carols.

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