Austin's Blog

 

Butterfly volunteers: Making a difference to every last minute of life

February 4th, 2019    Author:

Butterfly Choir

“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life”. We all know February is the month of love, but with Time to Talk Day on the 7th, it’s also about opening up about mental health – anxiety, depression, perhaps even loneliness. We all know how important relationships are at all stages of our lives, and feeling close to those that we love.

How would you feel about being alone in the last chapter of your life? What would you do if you couldn’t get to a family member or close friend in their last few days?

Charity of the year

With this in mind, we’re delighted that our charity of the year for 2019 is the Butterfly Volunteers Service. This incredible team of specially trained volunteers are based at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage where they provide support and companionship to dying adult patients and their families.

The quote above is from Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the Hospice Movement. It’s hugely poignant and synonymous with the Butterfly Service, which creates a ‘hospice in hospital’ environment.

The Butterfly volunteers, or ‘Butterflies’ for short, say: “It is recognised that in the final days and hours of a person’s life, it is not always possible for staff or family members to sit with dying patients; factors determining this include busy workloads and geographical proximity of relatives.”

Happiness is love

We love these words from one of the Butterflies: “For me happiness is love, not just receiving it but also being able to give it, share it. Being with a person at the end of life is a privilege and I hope it makes a difference to their lives, as little as it may be.”

Helping in numbers

Did you know that, before the Service was set up in 2016, an estimated 15-20 patients a month were dying alone at the Lister Hospital, either waiting for relatives to arrive or because they didn’t have any relatives?

As heartbreaking as that number is, it’s wonderful to hear that last year the hospital’s 30 Butterflies sat with 650 patients, made over 2,000 visits and provided over 1,000 hours of emotional support. Now they’re some numbers to be proud of, and there’s no doubt the Service has made a fundamental difference to the way the Lister provides end of life care.

Working as a team

The work these volunteers do really is priceless. If you’re at the Lister Hospital and see people in purple polo shirts with butterfly logos, you’ll know what amazing work they’re doing.

The Butterflies work with:

● Patients nearing the end of their life, who may feel lonely and frightened. They might read to them, sit with them or just hold their hand
● Friends and family of the patients who may need someone to talk to, someone to give them a break from sitting by the bedside, or simply to make hot drinks or run errands to the hospital shop
● The ward staff to help free up their time to care for other patients, safe in the knowledge that there is someone providing support to patients who are dying

One person helped by the Butterflies said: “To leave Dad with a Butterfly Volunteer, who we knew would sit with him in our absence, was a great comfort to us. You helped to make a difficult time a little easier. Thank you.”

Austin’s charitable work
The Butterflies need £25,000 a year to continue their work and we aim to help them towards that target throughout 2019. Our charitable fund was set up in 2002 and it has raised over £125,000 for community-based and local charities including the Samaritans, Stevenage Haven, Cancer Hair Care and Tracks Autism. We’re very grateful to everyone who has helped to raise money for these brilliant charities so far.

To find out more about the Butterfly Volunteers Service, visit: https://www.enherts-tr.nhs.uk/get-involved/volunteering/butterfly-volunteers/

We’ll also be posting updates about the work they do throughout the year on the website and on our social media channels.