My wife volunteers at the Kent hospice on reception and it was her volunteering that spurred me on to become a volunteer. I thought volunteering would give me another interest and something else to do rather than just spend my days staring at the screen.
I enjoyed dropping of the Christmas presents to families, my wife knocked on the majority of the doors as I was driving, but I did do the families I knew. Including Zak’s family, so I could wish him and his family a Merry Christmas and check-in with them. It was a nice opportunity to touch base with Zak’s mum and dad.
Zak was over the moon with his present, he was running around like a good-un. An outsider looking in wouldn’t have known anything was wrong, he was so energetic that day.
I drove Zak to his hospital appointments on four occasions. His mum came with him the first time and the other times it was David, his dad. I remember that first time I took him to an appointment, the M25 was clear and that isn’t always the case. But I always say to families that if you need me to stop I will do where I can and when it is safe to do so.
On the way back that first time I could hear he wasn’t feeling well, so regularly asked if they wanted us to stop, so they could take care of him, but Caroline, his mum was keen to keep going and took care of him while I was driving. That is the benefit of us driving families to and from appointments they can focus on the child and not the driving and just take care of them.
There are a couple of other families I regularly take out as well and it is the same for them, I always offer to stop if they need me. For one of the families they really appreciate it, as the ladies don’t like driving in London.
If you’re thinking of driving a family, my advice is that it can be quite upsetting and you need to be prepared for that. This is something that I am learning along the way, sometimes things hit me hard. Like Zak, I got to know him and his family really well and it did upset me a bit. I had a long conversation with Mary (practical support member of staff) about it and how these things affect people differently.
I still think about Zak and I remember seeing him on the front page of Kent Messenger, I wish I kept a copy of the paper to show my wife, so I could show her who Zak was. I have helped other families but none have affected me in the same way.
I always remember this one time I was driving a lad and he was like Mick, turn up the music up. I think it is the small things like that which make a difference. Zak would always have his music on or be playing a game which I was happy to hear him enjoying whilst we were travelling.
I really enjoy helping the families and hope that my assistance gives them support at difficult times.