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Volunteers with a voice

Sometimes, Claudia Fitzsimmons and Mary Brown just need to look at each other, and they’ll start laughing together.
After 11 years, they have become the best of friends.

For that time Claudia has visited Mary once a week, helping her to practise and become more confident in communicating.
Twelve years ago Mary was playing cards when she suddenly lost most of the use the right side of her body and the ability to communicate coherently through speech. She’d just had a serious stroke.
After months of rehab she returned home and was referred by her speech language therapist to the Volunteer Stroke Scheme.
Run out of North Shore Hospital, and administered by Waitemata DHB, the regional scheme trains volunteers to help people who have had a stroke practise their communication skills.
Some volunteers work with groups of six to eight people, who meet weekly. Others, like Claudia, work one-on-one with people like Mary – visiting at home for an hour a week.
Sometimes those visits can last longer. “When I first started, it was an hour because Mary used to get quite tired,” says Claudia. “Now it’s more like an hour and a half.”
They go through the newspaper, talking about what’s happening. Sometimes they talk about where they have travelled, or just what they’ve been doing for the past week. They communicate through speaking, writing, pictures, and sometimes just through knowing each other so well they can finish one another’s sentences.
Mary describes Claudia as “wonderful”. “I love her,” she says. Claudia says Mary has a great sense of humour. “We laugh about everything.”
Since Claudia has been visiting, Mary’s ability to communicate has improved dramatically.  And Claudia reckons she gets as much out of Mary as Mary gets out of her.
“I’m really humbled by the way that Mary can lead a busy, independent life, despite her hurdles. If Mary can lead a life like that, then why worry about the small stuff?”
Volunteer Stroke Scheme:-
130 volunteers work with 137 clients, in groups and one-to-one.
Volunteers receive training in the effects of stroke and methods of communication.
Volunteers and clients are matched by locality and interests.
To volunteer, email the Volunteer Stroke Scheme:

Golden hands – helping hands

The North Shore Hospital Foundation is about to auction a golden sculpture of Greg Murphy’s hand – and those of other famous New Zealanders – to raise money for the hospital.

Called Hands 4 Health, it follows a successful 2005 campaign, when the sale of the first hands and other fundraising activities raised more than $150,000.
This time, the money will go towards buying software that lets paramedics send vital information about cardiac patients directly to cardiac and emergency specialists, so they can begin treatment in the field.
North Shore Foundation executive director Jane Hunter made the sculptures, covered with gold leaf, with former Waitemata DHB breast care nurse specialist Denise Flett. “We personally went out to the contributors homes and made the hands,” says Jane.
This second, and final, release will go to public auction this month. It is now open for advance purchase. Contact Jane Hunter on 486 8954 or by email at

New faces and hours

Anyone who spends time at North Shore Hospital’s emergency department and assessment and diagnostic unit will have noticed some new faces over the past few months.

The number of allied health professionals has grown, to cope with the increasing number of patients and provide cover over extended hours.
The three most recent additions are physiotherapists Kiera Ollerton and Chloe King, and social worker Evelien Carrein, all in new positions created this year. They join Laura Chaston, the first occupational therapist specifically covering the departments fulltime.
All are enjoying the team atmosphere, and say as the medical and nursing staff get used to the extended allied health hours, they are getting more referrals.
Physiotherapists are now rostered from 7:30am-7:30pm, Monday to Friday, while the social workers now work until 7:30pm from Wednesday to Friday, and from 8am-4:30pm Saturday and Sunday. The hours are a trial and may change depending on staff feedback and patient need.

by Channel Editorial