Irma's a volunteer marvel

IF you have spent time as a patient at Ipswich Hospital then the chances are you may have had a conversation with Irma Jacyna.

IF you have spent time as a patient at Ipswich Hospital then the chances are you may have had a conversation with Irma Jacyna.

The 70-year-old is often giving up her own free time to visit patients at the Heath Road site.

She is one of many volunteers who work at the hospital on a regular basis.

Mrs Jacyna's generosity is all the more remarkable as she travels to the hospital on an electric power chair. She needs to use the chair after she broke her neck and spine in two places while delivering aid in the Ukraine in 1997.

When she visits the hospital, she looks for those patients without any visitors and then strikes up a conversation with them.

“I usually go around at visiting time from ward to ward to see who does not have any visitors, it is usually the older ones or some of the younger ones.

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“With the older people lots of them do not live in Ipswich and their friends cannot go to visit so I visit these people. The next time I go, if they are still there, then we become friends and I go and see them again.

“Some of them are very surprised and they say 'that is nice because I am not having any visitors'.

Mrs Jacyna, who left Frankfurt for England in 1958, started in the role about two years ago.

She became lonely following the death of her husband and thought she would help other people who are also lonely.

And despite saying that most people are “very nice”, she has had some difficult conversations.

“I had one person who swore at me and called me a 'do-gooder' and I said 'excuse me I do not have to listen to that'.

She also often has to work hard to strike up conversations.

“One lady once said that she had heard me talking to other patients and she said 'I do not think that we have anything in common, I don't want to talk to you' and then I said 'you have beautiful flowers' and we ended up talking about her flowers.”

But it is the patients who have benefited from Mrs Jacyna's kindness which most stick in her memory.

“There was a man who lost his brother the week before and then he was taken ill and I used to go and see him and he looked forward to me going.”

Jan Rowsell, Ipswich Hospital spokesperson, said there are more than 400 volunteers at the hospital: “We are absolutely thrilled that so many people like Irma freely give their time and their kindness to make life in hospital so much better for people.”

If you are keen to volunteer, call Ipswich Hospital on 01473 712233 and ask to speak to voluntary services.

Irma Jacyna was left seriously injured on a trip delivering aid to the Ukraine in 1997.

She had been delivering aid to a hospital in the country since 1993. But in October '97, the truck she was in skidded on a road as it tried to avoid mud and ended up going down an embankment.

Despite being unconscious for a while she had to climb back up the embankment, get into the truck, and travel to hospital because they were unable to get an ambulance.

“I was in an awful lot of pain and had to do it myself,” she said.

This was all the more remarkable being that she had broken her spine in two places and three months later found out that her neck was also broken.