Story 78

Supportive and kind

In 1978 I joined the police cadets. Part of our training was to spend some time at Llanhennock Lodge, a Leonard Cheshire care home in South Wales.

Julie West

I wasn’t keen on going at first. I was naïve, awkward and painfully shy. I walked into the room, saw lots of people looking at me and I wanted to turn tail and go home.

But I stuck it out, and the next morning the matron introduced me to Richard, one of the residents, for the first time. Richard was a young man with advanced MS who was recovering from pneumonia.

Richard was in the dining room getting ready for breakfast. He had his food liquidised and often used a cup. So matron gave me a cup and an apron, and I was to help him. I walked over, still nervous, my hands shaking.

As I lifted the cup to his lips I squeezed too tight and the food went everywhere. I ran out crying and then I heard Richard call, ‘Please come back. Don’t be afraid of me.’

Those words cut deeply into me and I felt ashamed that I had made him think that. I turned back and got another food cup. He said to me, ‘And don’t be afraid to laugh. It’s really funny.’  Something in those words changed me and I became determined to make my time there work.

Even though it was many years ago I clearly remember those precious weeks spent with some wonderful people. But mainly I remember Richard. He liked to lie facing the tropical fish, his eyes tracing their rainbow dances.  He enjoyed listening to the radio and we had fun ‘dancing ‘ to ‘In the Navy’ by the Village People. The other residents joined in – what a happy time.

The staff were wonderful – so supportive and kind (to me as well as the residents).  One had a most beautiful singing voice. She always liked to sing ‘I can’t stop loving you’ by Ray Charles.

I didn’t have a very long career in the police in the end. When I left I went on to work in residential homes. Those few short weeks I worked at Llanhennock had such an impact on me. It was not only a sanctuary for its residents, it was one of the biggest privileges I’ve had in my life.

Throughout my career I have tried to give that kindness and lightness of touch that I was lucky enough to have witnessed.

I clearly remember those precious weeks spent with some wonderful people.