Christmas is a special day for most people, but for the Paul Cunningham Nurses Charity it’s just like any other day.
While most people will be tucking into their Christmas turkey and relaxing with family and friends, the team of nurses who look after terminally ill patients will be in other people’s homes.
They will continue to fulfill their caring duties on December 25, as they’ve been doing every Christmas – and every other day – for the past 14 years.
It needs a special kind of person to work for and volunteer in palliative care as it can take an emotional toll – especially at this time of year.
The charity’s secretary Chris Rodley recalls one patient who had been renting one of the charity’s hospital beds for almost a year, and so at Christmas that year he went around to tell the woman’s husband they could keep it.
But that day he found out she had died.
“Why do I do it? I often ask myself that question, dealing with the public and well meaning volunteers can be a strain, then I meet or talk to the family of a patient we see or hear how we have helped them and it all seems worthwhile,” he says.
“And I am retired so what else would I do?”
Rodley said he raised money for charities in the UK, before he moved to Spain and was always looking for a reason to give back to the community.
“My parents were very charity-minded, so it seems to be in the blood as it is with all the people who work in charities.
“I think we are a breed of people who want to help others.”
The charity, based on the Costa Blanca, was the vision of Jennifer Cunningham who on her return to Spain after losing her son Paul to spinal cancer at age 33 was shocked to learn that there was no hospice care nursing available in her party of Spain.
“When patients get to the terminal illness stage hospitals discharge them and if they’re Spanish they’ll have their family to look after them, but if they’re a foreigner they are left completely alone,” Rodley says.
“We have nurses who go around and do weekly checks on patients at their homes and get them whatever they need, wherever they need it, we are there for them.”
The charity helps the patient right from when they are discharged from hospital, providing transport to their home.
From there, the charity then offers support, information and medical expertise, with nurses available to care for terminal prognosis patients in their own home.
Expat Jennifer, from London, spent the final six months with her dying son Paul in a Sue Ryder hospice in Bedfordshire.
She returned to Spain and realising there was no similar service on the Costa Blanca, she decided to launch the charity in 2008, in her son’s memory.
“The hospice had taken such exceptional care of my son but on my return I looked around to see what would happen if someone was in the same circumstance here in Spain and discovered that there really wasn’t anything similar,” she explains.
“People were sent home to die to be cared for by their family, but what if that wasn’t possible?”
About 95% of the charity’s funds come from donations.
To support Paul Cunningham Nurses Charity providing end of life care for patients in need, you can donate at paulcunninghamnurses.com/helping-us/.