Loss became a turning point for this remarkable volunteer

28th March 2019

Mandy Preece went through a very difficult few years. Firstly, her dad became ill, and, after a short time, died a peaceful death in hospital. Shortly afterwards, her mum was diagnosed with cancer and asked to die at home. Mandy, reduced her working hours as a legal editor, and moved home to look after her mum, only seeing her husband at the weekends. She was next to her mum as she died peacefully at home. But ‘bad luck comes in threes’. Not long after her mum passed away, one of Mandy’s dearest friends also died. Shocked, and grieving, Mandy returned to work.

Then one more surprise. At the age of 43 Mandy found she was pregnant with her first baby. Tears of joy this time. When her son was 3 years’ old she decided not to go back to work. But, as often the case when we reach turning points in life, she chose to do something very different. She became a volunteer at Macmillan Caring Locally – a palliative care unit under Bournemouth and Christchurch NHS Hospital Trust.

Starting by making tea and coffee for patients with motor neurone disease in the day centre, she grew in confidence and undertook a volunteer companion role. But drawing on her personal experience Mandy was keen to support patients at the very end of their lives, particularly if they had no one to be with them. She asked to trial a bedside companion role in the evenings on the ward. This proved a great success, leading Mandy to train other volunteers to undertake the role. Because of Mandy’s dedication a team of volunteers now visit patients in the evening, sit with them, listen, hold a hand, and support families.

Mandy has since developed award-winning communication training for the volunteers so they feel confident offering respite to tired family members, calming anxious patients, and sitting alongside someone so they do not die alone. Her training received the Princess Royal Training Awards in 2017, and in 2019 she won the NHS Volunteer Unsung Hero Award.

“Through my volunteering I have gained an enormous amount of respect for the nurses, and it is great being able to help on the ward where I can. You can’t have any ego in this role; all you can do is sit alongside those in need and stay with them. It is a privilege to be a volunteer and part of the NHS team.” Mandy Preece