22 July 2013
A popular volunteer will retire on her 80th birthday after supporting cancer patients at the chemotherapy unit at Essex County Hospital for 12 years.
Once a week since February 16 2001 great-grandmother Jean Arthur has caught the bus from her home in Tollesbury to the Mary Barron Suite where she serves drinks and chats with patients who are on their own.
When she started, Mrs Arthur was told the unit would be relocating to Colchester General Hospital in two years - but it is still there today!
Her final day will be Wednesday 31 July when the Mary Barron Suite team will present her with flowers and a gift to show their appreciation for her 12 years of volunteering.
Mrs Arthur said: "I saw an advert in the paper asking for volunteers and as I was on my own after the death of my husband and wanted to put something back, I joined.
"I've met so many different people and feel privileged to have had an opportunity to support them.
"But because of my age and because the Mary Barron Suite is going to move later this year, I thought now would be a good time to go."
Mrs Arthur and her husband, Colin, who died of heart failure in 1992, had three children. She now has 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, including one aged just three months.
Sister Vanessa Bradbury from the Mary Barron Suite said: "Jean travels from Tollesbury every Wednesday, no matter what the weather.
"She is an asset to our department, and always has a kind word and a warm smile for everyone. We shall all miss her and wish her a happy retirement."
Some of the unit's staff sponsored Mrs Arthur when she took part in the Race for Life at Hylands Park, Chelmsford, on 7 July in aid of Cancer Research UK.
There are approximately 1,000 patient episodes of chemotherapy every month at the Mary Barron Suite (some patients may be treated more than once a month).
The unit has 18 staff - two administrators, two healthcare assistants, a chemotherapy information nurse and 13 nurses. It is named after the first matron of Essex County Hospital in the early 19th century.
The Mary Barron Suite is due to relocate to Colchester General Hospital late this year as part of the relocation of all cancer services from Essex County Hospital.
A £25m radiotherapy centre is currently being built at Colchester General Hospital, with the first patients due to be treated there in early 2014 - 50 years after the opening of the current radiotherapy department at Essex County Hospital.