It’s a special edition of In Conversation With… this week! As part of our recognition for our wonderful volunteers, we spoke to Edie Lay, the winner of our Lifetime Achievement award.
She was presented with her award by our interim Chief Executive, Chris Bown, at a thank you event for all of our volunteers on Monday (19 November). Edie has volunteered at our Trust for a huge 28 years!
She has always worked with our Cancer team after being inspired to volunteer at our hospitals following the death of her only child, Christine, from breast cancer, aged just 39. Following Christine’s death, Edie raised her granddaughter Zoe, now 43. She now also has a great-granddaughter, Bonnie, seven.
Lives: in Dagenham with husband Norman
Tell us a little bit about your role
I volunteer on the Sunflower Suite at Queen’s Hospital. I’ve always done two days a week since the beginning, Monday and Friday. One of my main roles is to bring the patients sandwiches while they’re having their chemo, while one of our other volunteers gives them tea.
I also spend time talking to the patients, especially those who don’t have anyone with them, which I really enjoy.
What inspired you to become a volunteer?
I’d always planned to volunteer after I retired; I’d worked for 28 years at an engineering company making buttons for car seats, as I wanted to do something to help and not just sit at home.
I hadn’t had much experience of hospitals before, so it wasn’t where I was planning to volunteer, and then my daughter Christine had breast cancer and was cared for at Oldchurch Hospital. They looked after her so well and the staff were so kind that it decided it for me. I wanted to say thank you and give something back, so I became a volunteer on the cancer ward.
And because of Christine, I’ve always volunteered helping cancer patients. Christine would be proud, it’s her legacy.
Did you ever think you would volunteer for so long?
I never expected to still be here 28 years later but I’ve stayed because I enjoy it. I’m thinking about retiring after 30 years though!
What’s the best thing about it?
Talking to the patients is the best thing and I try to make them laugh. You often see the same people over several weeks as they have their treatment so you do build a relationship with them.
Some of them are so ill but they are all so appreciative of what you do for them. All the nurses are lovely too, I’ve seen several come and go. And I’ve made lots of friends from volunteering over the years, many of whom I’ve kept in touch with.
I also love to hear the End of Treatment Bell, when you know a patient has finished their course of chemotherapy. You’re sad to see them go of course but so pleased they’re getting better. Everyone loves to hear that bell.
You’ve volunteered for a long time, has a lot changed since you started out?
Everything has changed! I remember my first days volunteering at Oldchurch, there were no computers and all the nurses used to write down appointment details in a book.
What we did as volunteers was different too. I used to answer the phone and help to make beds.
I moved from Oldchurch to Queen’s Hospital when it opened.
What would you say to encourage others to follow in your footsteps and become a volunteer?
It’s a very worthwhile job. It’s great when you get to see someone getting better, and everyone is very appreciative of what you do.
Talking about appreciation, congratulations on receiving our lifetime achievement award for volunteering
I don’t look for recognition, but I wasn’t too surprised to receive this – I know they like to show appreciation.
What do you like doing when you’re not busy volunteering at our hospital?
I love gardening and spend a lot of time in the garden at home.
We’ll give the final word to Maggie Wright, a fellow volunteer on Sunflower Suite who has been so grateful for Edie’s support since she started four years ago.
She said: “I love her to bits – she’s been so supportive of me and showed me the ropes. She’s lovely to work with as she’s so conscientious and is always helping people.
“Edie is not my colleague, she’s my friend.”