Brian Bailey, who has no close family, relies on Royal Voluntary Service to get him to hospital, where he’s being treated for prostate cancer. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been particularly grateful to the volunteers for getting him there safely.
Now 75, Brian has led a full life. He worked as an engineer for 35 years and had a passion for Yamaha motorbikes, although he decided it was time to give up this hobby when his 70th birthday was approaching.
However, it was Brian’s retirement job as a porter in the Leicester Royal Infirmary that gave him the most fulfilment;
“They were the best 10 years of my life. I felt part of the whole service. Before the doctors did anything, I had to move the patients. I used to feel that I had done something – without that, the nursing staff couldn’t do their job. I knew it meant a lot to the running of the hospital. Patients are often delighted to see you, as they have been waiting for a long time and seeing a porter means the start of the treatment. I used to wait to see if patients wanted to talk and give them time that they needed. It was a very diplomatic job. I made sure I didn’t give advice. Patients used to ask, ‘Will I be alright?’ and I’d say ‘We’re sending people home all the time.’”
Brian used to go out of the house regularly:
“I was always out and about, I’d go to the shops every day. I made sure I had something to buy as it gave me an excuse to exercise every day!”
When the pandemic struck, Brian’s habits changed drastically and his life became far more isolated. He takes the risks seriously but is concerned about the impact of being confined to the house:
“It’s real and people are dying. I wear a mask every time I leave the house and I sanitise. I’m not meeting anyone. I’ve not seen anyone for six months. I understand that younger people want to go out as I was like that when I was younger. The problem is mental health. And if we are isolating, we are not building up our immune system, because we are not exposing ourselves to any germs. When I worked in the hospital, I had a really strong immune system”
Although Brian was advised to shield, he hasn’t had to worry about getting basic supplies:
“A neighbour does my food shopping once a week. The Government gave me a weekly box of food, but I wanted to pay for it. I was told to shield – I was going to do it anyway and the food parcel made sure I stayed indoors. I haven’t come out of shielding yet.”
Brian didn’t worry about his appointments – just how he’d get to hospital
When Brian was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he had to go to Royal Leicester Infirmary for treatment. He was reassured to be treated in the hospital where he once worked:
“I felt totally confident going back as a patient. The NHS is the best thing that has happened to this country.”
What did concern Brian was how he would get to his 37 treatment appointments without any transport of his own:
“The treatment didn’t phase me – the medical staff do their best. The only thing I was worried about was how I’d get there 37 times and not catch COVID taking four buses!”
“I would not be able to have treatment without the charity”
Thankfully, Royal Voluntary Service was there for Brian. He says that the lifts he’s had to and from the hospital have saved his life:
“I would have refused the treatment otherwise and be an ill man and die. I wasn’t prepared to do that journey. The radioactive machine makes me tired so no way I could do the journey. Yesterday I ended up sleeping all day. What you have done for me is wonderful, it took all that pressure off me”
Brian is incredibly grateful to the volunteer who’s been driving him and to Royal Voluntary Service for supporting him:
“I cannot begin to state my gratitude. I would not be able to have treatment without the charity. Volunteers are beautiful people and really care. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I tell everyone how amazing Royal Voluntary Service are, it something that only Royal Voluntary Service and the NHS can provide. I hope that the people who really need this service will have access to it.”
Volunteer Jenny visits Brian:
“I’ve worked in numerous organisations since I was 16 and wanted to do something completely different. I was keen to show my appreciation for the NHS and support Leicestershire hospitals, because they’ve cared for so many precious people in my life. I phoned Leicester Royal Infirmary and they referred me to Royal Voluntary Service. After attending a group induction day, I decided to join as a voluntary driver taking people like Brian to hospital appointments."
“Volunteering for Royal Voluntary Service was a small step, but it led to rewards greater than I ever imagined. When I’m driving people like Brian, I forget my own problems and focus on others, which lifts my spirits and makes me less self-centred and more fulfilled and confident.”
“Volunteering is flexible and I meet such an eclectic mix of clients. I enjoy lifting some of the pressure which comes with multiple hospital appointments – like the ones Brian has – by handling timings, transport, parking and a safe return home. Some people find it helpful to talk about their cases and sometimes they tell me a whole potted history. People are so interesting when they open up. It is incredibly rewarding. Some of my clients have had an impact on me which I will remember forever. I plan to continue driving for Royal Voluntary Service until either my car or I becomes too frail!”