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Alasdair’s cheery ‘hello’

Manning Reception, Alasdair Crawford is often the first face visitors to St Michael’s see. ‘Reception is about more than just answering the phones,’ he says. ‘Visitors might be nervous, upset or frightened and it is important to put them at ease.’

The COVID pandemic has meant the bright, welcoming Reception area at St Michael’s has been quieter over the past year, with fewer visitors and volunteers, while most non-clinical staff have been working from home. ‘It is a bit different now, but we still feel we are playing our part in supporting the Inpatient Unit by taking visitor bookings, or just being there at the centre of the building to say a cheery ‘hello’ to staff who must be under constant pressure.’

Alasdair’s drive to help in the hospice movement was born out of the care he and his family received at Sue Ryder’s Leckhampton Court hospice in Cheltenham when his late partner Bill died there of a brain tumour in 2006. ‘They were so thoughtful – even sitting us down to a family Sunday roast so we would not have to leave Bill’s bedside,’ says Alasdair. ‘Like most people, I suspect, I had no idea of what hospices did until my family needed one. They are brilliant, calm and caring places, and St Michael’s is no exception.’ 

In his years here, Alasdair has regularly seen how busy people, with their day already running late, stop to give those who need it time, comfort and a helping hand. He says this hasn’t stopped during the pandemic.

Alasdair’s relationship with St Michael’s was deepened when his sister spent her last days on the Inpatient Unit in 2014. Again, he saw that for hospice staff ‘nothing is too much trouble’. He even had a taste of what the Receptionist role offers when the lady on duty the day his sister died sat him and his family down and calmly made them a tray of tea, leaving them to concentrate on what had just happened.

Alasdair had considered a new challenge early in 2020. Then came the pandemic and the first lockdown. ‘I missed being on reception every Tuesday; the people, the place and the sense of helping in my own small way. As well as being the first person many people see, you are often the last face someone sees as they leave.  They might have had a harrowing or upsetting visit. Often, the receptionist spends time (and tissues) comforting those about to go home, sharing in their relief at the wonderful care they have seen. If nothing else, the pandemic has shown me what is important about my volunteering at the hospice – the people, the sense of ‘family’ and doing something that one feels contributes to the locality and society.’

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