How did Nigel get involved?

Nigel is a GH Buddy. He also volunteers for a local charity for which he supports with transporting patients to and from hospital appointments. 

Nigel began volunteering following his diagnosis of genetic haemochromatosis 14 and a half years ago. He has been a volunteer with HUK for 5-6 years. Nigel found that when he received his diagnosis, he wasn’t given much information about Haemochromatosis- he didn’t even really know how to spell it! All he knew was that he had it, and he had been told to prompts his brothers to go and get tested for the condition too. 

Nigel found this time of his life difficult, as he felt he had no one to talk to about his diagnosis. This is what ultimately prompted him to start volunteering, so he could support those who had been newly diagnosed or are affected by the condition to navigate their new situation. He began volunteering as a part of the helpline, taking incoming calls and directing them to the necessary people. For the last couple of years though, he has been a Buddy. 

What's involved?

Nigel tells us that he comes across many people who are scared following their diagnosis due to a range of different factors. They can be scared of what is to come or feel like they were given a lack of information when they were diagnosed. Nigel believes in the power of human connection and how having a good chat, and on occasion, a good laugh, can really help to brighten others’ outlooks. 

Nigel tells me he likes to recommend people do their own research outside of his conversations with them- “it’s one thing me telling them, but if they can reinforce that by reading some literature or by speaking to a professional, they’re more likely to remember”. This way, they can also relate what they have learnt to their own, current experiences. 

Have there been memorable moments?

Nigel recalled the first phone call he took when he became part of the Buddy Scheme. He told me that he was ‘matched’ with a lady of a similar age to himself and that they had shared very similar experiences on the medical side of things. He told me that she’d felt incredibly relieved to have an insight into what may be on the horizon for her. She was very frightened of needles and not looking forward to Venesection in the slighted, but Nigel was able to put her mind to rest. He told me it felt good to be able to help her. 

How does volunteering help the GH community?

“I have never heard a negative comment (about volunteers),” Nigel tells me the vast majority of feedback he has heard has been positive, and it is clear that those who use the Buddy Scheme in particular appreciate all the help they receive. “Even if I don’t know the answer to specific questions, people like having someone who can just sit and listen (to them). It helps people to feel like they are not alone.”

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Nigel values the freedom of volunteering for HUK - he appreciates that he is able to set his own boundaries with the role. “We choose who we are able to take on, so we are never stretched too far”. He tells me it works well with his lifestyle, and he is happily able to juggle his two volunteering roles, as well as his every day activities. 

Nigel tells me that he enjoys helping other people, and even he can’t help people with a specific query, he will be able to point them in the right direction through signposting.

“It’s really nice when someone is kind and appreciates what I do. It always makes me feel quite bright and chirpy after!” Nigel tells us this applies to both of his volunteering roles, both within and outside of HUK, and he loves the feel-good feeling. 

“There are good days and bad days, like anything, but it’s all about learning how to react and how to empathise. You get out of it what you put into it- the more you put into it the more you get back - even if you’re not looking for anything back!”