Dec 17, 2015
Sometimes all it takes is one phone call to change someone’s life.
The Colostomy Association’s 24-hour helpline is our flagship service – providing support and assistance who anyone who needs our help. Anyone can call up regardless of time, UK location or date and find a fellow ostomate on the other end of the line.
During office hours, our helpline is answered by staff but during evenings and weekends a dedicated volunteer helpline operator is on the line to assist any callers. Additionally, anyone who calls can be matched up to ostomates whose background or experiences best matches their own situation.
Although our helpline volunteers cannot provide medical advice, the assistance they can give callers is invaluable. One of our most dedicated helpline volunteers is Bobbie Minshull who has been answering calls for the past three years.
Bobbie joined the Colostomy Association in 2012 after living abroad in The Netherlands for 9 years. As a helpline volunteer, Bobbie’s role involves taking the phone lines during evenings and weekends as well as taking calls that are passed to her from the head office, to callers who are in a similar situation to herself.
Calls to our helpline range from simple requests for information or literature, to helping people with complex and challenging problems. Each helpline operator is given a mentor that they can contact if they are uncertain what to do and they also have a huge folder with answers to questions that they might not be able to answer. This handbook also explains when they should refer a caller on to a qualified medical health professional for specialist advice.
However, the most valuable information most of our helpline volunteers can provide is their own experiences. Letting callers know they are not alone and their problems and concerns aren’t unique can make a huge difference.
Manning the helpline comes with its own challenges: not only do our helpline operators have to oversee a vital service for hours or days at a time, but they have to deal with difficult calls ranging from individuals with mental illnesses or drunken callers.
However, for Bobbie, the best experiences come from the calls where she has made a real difference in someone’s life. Bobbie said her favourite moments are: “When someone feels they have really turned a corner after the advice I have given them”.
When asked what she would recommend to a new helpline volunteer, Bobbie said: “If you feel you want to help others and give something back then go for it.
“It’s hard sometimes to be emotionally detached, especially when it’s a problem you have had yourself, but you have to remain calm and coherent. Remember you are often talking to people who are in a deep trough and need a helping hand to climb out of it.”
If you want to speak to one of our helpline volunteers then please call the Colostomy Association on 0800 328 4257.
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