We meet one of the amazing Marie Curie Nurses, who bring comfort to people with a terminal illness and their families
It was in the peaceful quiet, sat holding the hand of her mum during her final moments, that Alma Ainslie Davies realised the power of nursing as two Marie Curie Nurses silently rallied round to make this final day as precious as it could be.
“The nurses gave me such a look of understanding to say that we should have a peaceful time with mum before she passed. That’s a look I give people myself now that I’m a Marie Curie Nurse,” says Alma.
Having joined the army when she was 18, Alma became a Senior Squadron Sergeant Major with the Royal Engineers and spent many years taking charge of difficult situations. When she retired from the services in 2006, she decided she wanted to continue to do her bit to help people by becoming a Healthcare Assistant and then joining Marie Curie.
‘When I come into a family home I just want to see what I can do to make life easier for everybody’
As the UK’s leading charity caring for people living with a terminal illness, including cancer, heart failure, respiratory failure, motor neurone disease and dementia, Marie Curie Nurses are there to make the last part of anyone’s life as special, comfortable and dignified as possible. They’re also there to bring support and comfort to the family of the person being cared for.
In fact, when Alma was called to help a man called Ted who was dying of heart failure, it was clear she was as much needed by Ted’s family as by him. “I came into the house and Ted’s daughter Allison was very distressed because Ted was really struggling to breathe. Ted’s wife Daisy was also very distressed. Although Daisy used to be a nurse herself, in that moment she was struggling to help Ted – it’s so different when you’re caring for a family member.”
“Having been involved in bombings and shootings in the army, I know how to take charge of a situation and could see how helpless that family were feeling. So I came in and got Ted settled and then helped the rest of the family who were traumatised by seeing their loved one in so much distress. The day after, one of Ted’s sons said to me ‘we are so grateful to you. We were so lost last night and you made everything okay.’”
‘Becoming a Marie Curie Nurse was definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s such a privilege to help people’
Alma also helped Ted’s wife Daisy find her role again, by encouraging her to give Ted one last shave with her help. “We did it together quietly and patiently with her taking the lead and it felt like such a special time. I reassured her that she’d done a grand job of looking after him, and later, Allison said I’d made her mum feel important and given her a role again.
“I felt I bonded with the family over the fact Ted had been in the army like me. Ted even saluted me and smiled which was a unique moment that meant so much to me. I told his daughter Allison that as her dad was a veteran, having Marie Curie was payback for his services. Everyone deserves to be ‘Marie Curied’ as I call it.”
Alma says the feeling of completeness she gets when she goes to someone’s house and helps them is better than winning the lottery. “All of my experiences – including the army and nursing my own mum and dad when they were dying – has made me appreciate life and want to help.
“When I come into a family home I just want to see what I can do to make life easier for everybody. I want to ease the pain not just for the patient, but also for everyone in the family.
“Becoming a Marie Curie Nurse was definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life and it’s just such a privilege to help people.”
For more information on Marie Curie please call 0800 716146 or visit www.mariecurie.org.uk/yours
Partnering with a charity that makes a difference
We’re delighted to announce that Yours are teaming up with Marie Curie for a very special partnership. We know from your letters, and our Reader Care Editor Rosie Sandall’s caring pages, how many of you have been affected by terminal illnesses in your family. Over the years we’ve heard lots of moving stories of how Marie Curie has made a difference to the final chapter of your loved ones’ lives. Because of this we know many of you already support the wonderful work of Marie Curie.
Through the partnership we’ll highlight some of the surprising ways that Marie Curie helps people with terminal illnesses and their families. We’ll also showcase different projects that Marie Curie runs throughout the year and show how you can get involved.
A mission to bring comfort and care
Nursing is at the heart of Marie Curie’s mission to bring comfort and support to people living with a terminal illness and their families. Each year Marie Curie Nurses deliver 1.2 million hours of care; across all the charity’s services, it helps more than 50,000 people around the UK. They know that, given the choice, most of us would want to die peacefully at home, surrounded by the people we love and so Marie Curie Nurses constantly go above and beyond the call of duty to make this happen.
As well as nursing at home, Marie Curie also provides hands-on care and practical and emotional support in a variety of other ways. Nine Marie Curie hospices around the UK offer round-the-clock reassurance, expert care and support.
The charity also offers a range of community services as well as an information and support line that people with a terminal illness or their family can call for practical advice, emotional support and a listening ear (call 0800 090 2309 – lines open Monday-Friday 8am-6pm and 11am-5pm on Saturdays).