When Ellis Sheldon's wife was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, the couple struggled to cope in their country home -until the Red Cross' Sue Whalley stepped in.
“When I retired, my wife Wendy and I fulfilled our ambition of building a dream home in the Conwy hills.
Sadly, after many happy years, Wendy's health began to deteriorate and she was diagnosed with Parkinson's. She found it increasingly difficult to do the things she loved, such as cooking and gardening, and needed carers to visit regularly.
During one period of very bad weather, our rural location left us completely snowed in and we were stuck in the house for about 13 weeks. We couldn't get out and the carers couldn't reach us, so we had to fend for ourselves. I cared for Wendy around the clock, but constantly lifting her in and out of bed took its toll and I eventually suffered a huge hernia. Wendy's nurse referred us to the British Red Cross Gofal service, a befriending and support service for people over 50 in north Wales - and that's how we met Sue Whalley.
Sue started to make weekly visits to spend time with Wendy, and let her talk about her feelings and worries. A therapeutic care volunteer, Rosemary Smyth, also made regular trips to offer gentle massage and ongoing emotional support.
Wendy knew she was getting worse, but Rosemary's massages were so relaxing and gave her something to look forward to. She would be like a different person after her massage.
As Wendy's illness progressed, she was taken into hospital for an operation. While she was recovering, I suffered a major heart attack and had to have a pacemaker fitted. I wasn't able to drive for 12 months following my operation so the Red Cross sent Alex, a care in the home volunteer, to help with shopping and household chores.
He was a great help and visited me regularly until I got my energy back to normal. Sadly, Wendy's health continued to decline so Sue
and the Gofal team started calling
round again, this time to help both of us. Without Sue, I don't think I could have managed. To know I could always pick up the phone and talk with her made the world of difference. Sue also helped me access benefits I didn't know I was entitled to and put us in touch with other organisations, such as Parkinson's UK.
Finally, my dear Wendy died. After the funeral, I was grief-stricken and needed to talk to someone I could trust. Once more, Sue was there for me.
Life is so unpredictable and people like Sue pop up very rarely. What she does is fantastic, and there's nothing I wouldn't do for her. It's like putting a concrete footing under a building - she's always there and her support is solid.”