Self-confessed workaholic Bob O’Halloran says ellenor helped ease him into retirement from the busy corporate world which dominated his life for nearly 37 years.
After retiring early from his dynamic career with Network Rail, he came to work for the charity as Health and Safety officer for three days a week. After five years he stepped down from this part-time paid role and now volunteers four hours a week greeting visitors to the hospice in Northfleet.
He said: “I think a lot of people who have had busy jobs find it difficult to adjust. I had been working 70 and 80-hour weeks for Network Rail and it’s not easy to just stop.
“I came from a very intense corporate world, so I was amazed when I joined ellenor. In my old world not a day went by without discussing something with intensity or raising my voice, but ellenor was a revelation. I never raised my voice in five and a half years.
“It was a totally different working environment, but not because the pressure or the intensity of the job was any less. It was because of people’s approach to each other. It wasn’t about climbing over someone to get to something. There was such empathy between fellow members of staff.
“As Health and Safety officer, I visited all ellenor’s premises, every shop and workplace. Wherever you go you find the same kind of people. They might not be getting the greatest wages in the world, but what they want to do is help. Lots of them will remain friends for years and years to come. It’s a great place to work, it really is. My years with ellenor have probably been some of the most enjoyable of my working life.”
Bob said that when he retired from ellenor, continuing as a volunteer felt like the right thing to do.
“All the volunteers are great people,” he said. “Giving something back makes me feel good and being a host makes such a difference. I only give four hours a week – it’s nothing when you think how many hours people waste just looking at nonsense on their mobile phones when they could be helping others!”
Bob can certainly empathise with staff and volunteers at the hospice and understand some of the challenges faced by patients with life limiting illnesses and their families. He underwent nearly 10 years of dialysis until he was lucky enough to have a renal transplant in 1993.
He said: “My son Daniel was very young at the time, and he didn’t know a time without me going into hospital. I spent three nights a week there having dialysis while I slept and got up and went to work the next day.
“So, when I see patients coming into the hospice, I think there but for the grace of god … that could have been me 30 years ago. When you have experienced a life altering event it gives you a fresh perspective.