Great grandmother Margaret Fitzpatrick, from Ballinderry, Co. Tipperary, celebrated her 90th birthday in August, after 36 years of caring and supporting patients and families at Saint Francis Hospice in Romford, Essex.
She said: “I knew about Saint Francis Hospice before it even opened its doors in 1984. I lived nearby so I saw it being built but I never thought I’d be working there.
“I was a full-time mum of four at the time and I remember feeling a bit down in the dumps when my youngest son went off to America to work.
“My friend Doreen worked in the hospice kitchen and she said she’d let me know if anything came up! Three years later I started working as a domestic on the ward. I loved helping the patients and it was lovely to be able to talk to the families. It has always been such a friendly place to work.
“It’s over 21 years ago now that my husband James was cared for on the ward when he had cancer and this was when my connection with the charity became personal.”
James Fitzpatrick was from Newry in Co. Down and worked as a self-employed painter and decorator before he died.
Margaret continued her work at the hospice. “The time flew by and after 30 years I decided it was time to retire. I took a year off before coming back as a ward volunteer.
“The staff and volunteers have become like family to me. I really look forward to my shifts and still enjoy having a chat and banter with the patients as I’m serving their meals and drinks.
“The way I look at it, by volunteering, I am freeing up the nurses and healthcare assistants so they can spend more time giving patients the care they need.
“Lockdown was really difficult as I couldn’t volunteer and I missed being at the hospice. I was so glad when I was able to come back again. I come in three days a week if they are short of volunteers. It does not hurt me to come in. I love being busy and I love being here. Although it can be very sad, and you could make yourself very sad, I have learned not to take it home.”
Margaret has lived Essex for 45 years.
Saint Francis Hospice is a registered charity that employs 150 nurses, doctors and specialist healthcare staff who are supported by 800 volunteers. Together they provide care and help to more than 4,000 people in Essex. Saint Francis Hospice provides all of its services free of charge to support patients from our local community with any life-limiting illness including cancer, heart, lung or motor neurone disease.
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