Steve Cook, Oxford Stroke Rehabilitation Unit (OSRU), Abingdon Community Hospital 

“My volunteering started in 2019 when I had a routine check up at Abingdon Hospital. I'd been retired for a while and was looking for something useful to occupy my time, after all there are only so many times you can mow the lawn or read a book. After my check up I randomly asked if there were any volunteer roles at the hospital and before I knew it I'd started helping in the EMU (Emergency Multidisciplinary Unit) ward. My role there was to chat to the patients hoping to make their stay more comfortable, making tea/coffee for them and their visitors. Sadly COVID struck and I was unable to continue for a year due to health regulations.

After COVID my role in EMU was very much reduced and I found myself looking for a different unit which would occupy me more and I chanced upon the OSRU (Oxfordshire Stroke Rehabilitation Unit) ward. I've been in that unit for over two years now and again my main role is interacting with the patients. I visit the unit two afternoons a week and will sit and talk to any of the patients who don't have visitors with them, this helps the long days for the patients pass that little bit quicker. They appreciate the chance to chat and tell me about themselves and I have heard so many wonderful tales about their lives. We have discovered on some occasions that we have mutual friends from our earlier lives! It is a very small world sometimes!

I recently expanded my role to include helping in a weekly Arts & Craft session on the unit, helping the patients paint, puzzle and create many different things, again it is so helpful in breaking up what can be long and monotonous days for the patients. The unit tries to help celebrate special days in the calendar including Christmas, Easter, the Olympics and Royal Weddings (and the recent Coronation) amongst others and I've found myself hanging bunting, Christmas decorations, lights, flags and posters to help brighten up the corridors around the unit. Personally, I get so much reward just from seeing the smiles on the faces of the patients and from the stories they tell, and I think it is beneficial for my physical and mental wellbeing too.

It doesn't take much of an effort to volunteer and the small amount of time I spend volunteering is so rewarding not just for myself but for the patients (and the staff on the unit too). Anyone can do as much or as little as suits them and their circumstances. I heartily recommend it to anyone.”

Nicky Fernandez, Lead Dietician at OSRU and Steve's supervisor says: 

“Steve is a positive presence on the ward, taking the time to talk to patients about their experience following stroke, their interests and hopes for when they are discharged. He is actively involved in arts and crafts sessions, which include pottery, collage, card making and painting.

Steve brightens up the ward with his cheery manner.  He engages patients in a way that is relaxed and friendly which the patients respond to positively. He decorates the ward during celebrations such as Christmas and the Kings Coronation to liven up the ward and involves patients in this where he can.

Steve is a pleasure to work with and always has new and exciting ideas he can get involved in alongside the patients."

Angela Conlan, Project Lead for Oxford Health Arts Partnership says:

“When Steve started volunteering with the ward arts group, he said to me that he would help support but was not artistic at all and was concerned that this would mean he couldn’t be much help. However, Steve’s support within the group over the last year has been invaluable, he has gone above and beyond to ensure everyone knows what is happening each week and has supported patients to attend. It has also been incredible to witness Steve’s own confidence with his artistic skills and how he now confidently covers for the artist to lead the group when needed.

During Covid, Steve was supporting another department on the Abingdon Community Hospital site and was instrumental in decorating the wards and gardens for the Jubilee, also going above and beyond by getting sponsorship from local companies for decorations and cake to help those working or staying in hospital celebrate.”