“I meet a huge variety of people and no two days are the same”

Helen is a volunteer on the information desk at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, and she shares with us a typical day for her.

“I woke up yesterday morning in good spirits; another sunny day and I was looking forward to spending the morning at Henshaws’ information desk at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, where I am one of the small team of volunteer co-ordinators. I started this role in October last year because I am not working at present and wanted to do something useful and stimulating in my spare time. Having been diagnosed with glaucoma in 2003, I have some understanding of the issues faced by people with eye conditions.

I meet a huge variety of people and no two days are the same 21st Aug image 1 I meet a huge variety of people and no two days are the same 21st Aug image 3

We are looking for new recruits to our volunteer team, so I thought it would be useful to tell you about a typical morning on the desk. Our aim is to demonstrate equipment that makes life easier for blind and partially sighted people, promote the registration process and point people in the direction of support services such as Henshaws. I meet a huge variety of people and no two days are the same.

Yesterday, I started by having a chat with Maggie Harrison, one of Henshaws’ two Patient Support Officers based at the hospital. I hadn’t seen her for a few weeks so it was lovely to catch up with her news while I collected my tables and demonstration material from her office.

Next I grabbed a much needed cup of coffee from the cafe and started to set up my display of household equipment and leaflets. There were lots of patients going to and from clinics and a distinct summery vibe with plenty of shorts and sun dresses in evidence. Several curious people came over to have a look before I’d finished putting things out so I could tell it was going to be a busy day.

Amongst the many people who approached the desk during the morning was an elderly man in a wheelchair accompanied by a woman friend who is his neighbour. It turned out that they were already regular helpers at their local society for blind people when he himself was diagnosed with macular degeneration. They were familiar with some of the practical devices that are so useful to people with sight problems, such as bumpon tactile markers but had never seen the range of products on show today. They were amazed at what’s available to help people remain independent. He was intrigued to see the various products to manage coins and notes, and being a keen newspaper reader was glad to find out about local and national talking newspapers.

Assistive equipment at the help desk

A woman stopped by on her way to an appointment in another part of the hospital. She told me that she has a range of health and mobility problems as well as an eye condition. Thankfully, she is already in touch with social services and Henshaws, so we talked about new activities that might improve her social life.

A young father with a genetic eye condition was delighted to discover that he could read examples of large print and picked up a leaflet about Henshaws’ support for families and children. While I was talking with him, a woman, rushing by, pulled out her phone to take some photographs of equipment to show her friend.

After that, I had a chat with one of the hospital chaplains who was enquiring how to make print easier to read. I ended the morning on the same theme, having a discussion with Angela Bracewell, who is responsible for patient liaison, about the accessibility of the video and patient feedback screens.

Having packed up the desk and equipment, I reflected on my busy and varied morning. I’d spoken to several staff, two hospital volunteers and well over twenty patients accompanied by friends and family members.”

We’re currently looking for new volunteers to join our friendly team on the hospital desk, so if this sounds like something you’d like to do, please get in touch with our volunteering coordinator Laura Henry on 01423 814 384 or email her at laura.henry@henshaws.org.uk.

Henshaws Hospital Helpdesk
Henshaws Hospital Helpdesk
Henshaws provide a weekly information desk at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital run by volunteers - Skeena, Sana, Sandip and Helen.