Grandmother gears up for 160ft abseil: ‘I’ll be terrified abseiling my hospital, but it’s important’


A 78-year-old grandmother will among the hardy souls gearing up for the adrenaline rush of a 160ft abseil at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Her aim is to raise funds for the Evelina Children’s Hospital, which stands beside St Thomas’.

The fifth annual St Thomas’ Abseil takes place tomorrow – the day that Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust will be celebrating International Nurses Day and the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who set up her first nursing school at St Thomas’ in 1859.

More than 400 people are due to take part, raising cash for the trust and for the children’s hospital. For Sue Smith, from Hammersmith, the occasion is a fitting way to mark 60 years in healthcare and the Evelina is close to her heart, as she is a volunteer there.

Of her upcoming fundraising challenge, Sue said: “Each day when I come here, I look up at St Thomas’ and I think ‘oh my goodness, what am I doing?’ “I’m sure I’ll be terrified on the day but it’s so important for me to do it.”

Inspired by her aunt, who qualified as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital in 1940, Sue began her nurse training in 1959.

Main: Sue Smith and  in 1959 as a nurse

The grandmother-of-seven spent much of her career as a health visitor, seeing families all across London. She said: “I had such a fulfilling career and believe I was meant to be a nurse. Being able to support others at such a critical time in their lives is truly an honour.”

Sue currently volunteers as an honorary chaplain at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. She said: “I love it. “I get to be a listening ear for patients and their families and try and help in any way that I can.

“There are many things outside of clinical care which may be playing on their mind, so I help as much as I possibly can to try and create some kind of normalcy in what can be a very difficult situation.”

Susan Pruden, senior play specialist at Evelina London, said: “Volunteers like Sue are a vital part of our team. “Sue has so many qualities that make her special and she is valued so much at the hospital. As a former nurse, she is empathetic and approachable and always has time for people.

Patients and families all look forward to speaking with her and spending time with her. “Sue always thinks of other people before she thinks of herself and for her to do this to raise money for Evelina London is such an amazing thing.

We’re extremely lucky to have her as part of the team.” Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, which includes Evelina London, has been a big part of Sue’s life.

The mother of three said: “Throughout my life the trust has been there for my family so I feel compelled to give something back.

“As well as my aunt training to be a nurse at Guy’s, one grandchild was born there and two of my grandsons were born at St Thomas’.

My father was also treated at St Thomas’ before he sadly passed away.” Sue added: “I love growing older. It’s a great gift. This abseil is an opportunity for me to face my fears and do something I never thought I could do.”

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