‘’I was ready to die – but Rebecca brought the whole world back to me’

Kathy Malcolm and Rebecca OwenBLOGFor Kathy, it seemed like things would never get better again.

She had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Her kidney failure, due to diabetes, meant dialysis treatment three times a week. She was slowly going blind. And to cap it all, she could no longer maintain her lovely big home.

The 64-year-old, from Llandudno, recalled: “I was at my lowest point – I was basically ready to die.”

Transforming effect

But cases such as Kathy’s are exactly what our support at home volunteers specialise in. And they work hard to ensure people know they have someone they can really count on.

Kathy had been referred to the British Red Cross by a social worker who recognised she was in real trouble. Within days, volunteer Rebecca Owen turned up on the pensioner’s doorstep. It was to have a transformative effect.

Looking back, Kathy said: “I wouldn’t be here today without Rebecca. She brought the whole world back to me.”

Cheering company

Rebecca started making weekly visits to enjoy tea and biscuits with Kathy, and talk through her ongoing difficulties.

Kathy said: “The visits gave me something to concentrate on – I used to wait for them with anticipation.

Kathy-Malcolm-and-Rebecca-O“I realise now that I needed someone to talk to. At first, I just cried and cried, and all I talked about was dying and putting things in order.

“But Rebecca was always so positive and would say: ‘I’ll come again next week, so we’ll talk more then’. It gave me something to look forward to.”

Constant support

When Rebecca first started calling round, Kathy lived in a large four-storey house that she was struggling to maintain due to her failing eyesight. She was also nervous about an upcoming eye operation.

Kathy remembered: “I was very low, but Rebecca kept turning up week after week and was such a help. She even came by a few days after my eye operation, which was a revelation.

“I realised that, for the first time, I could see her properly – but at first I just acted as normal and didn’t say anything. She helped me down the steps into my garden, and we had a coffee and chat as usual.

“Then after about ten minutes, I suddenly said: ‘That’s a lovely colour you’re wearing today, Rebecca’. Her face was a picture! We had a real laugh.”

Bright garden

Finally, the time came for Kathy to move into a more manageable small flat in Llandudno – and once more Rebecca was there to help out.

In the new place, Kathy’s lounge looks out over a small patio area that she’s transformed into a beautiful garden full of bright colours.

Kathy-MalcolmBLOG3She said: “My eyesight is beginning to deteriorate again, so I want to buy more bright, scented roses for the garden. I can still see bright things and want to get the garden perfect.”

She added: “I do miss my old house but, thanks to Rebecca, I’m now making plans to improve my flat.”

Proud Rebecca

Even Rebecca has been taken aback by the scale of Kathy’s progress. She recalled: “When I think back to when I first met her, the transformation is amazing.”

She added: “Our original goals were to get Kathy to a better place emotionally, improve her eyesight and also consider moving to a more suitable place.

“We’ve accomplished all of those things and Kathy has done incredibly well throughout. I’m very proud of what she has achieved.”

‘So grateful’

With a new home and increased confidence, Kathy has finally learned to relish life once again.

She said: “I can’t put into words how grateful I am to Rebecca and the Red Cross. Before I met her, I felt that I couldn’t go on.

“I was ready to just pack it all in, but she made me see there are reasons to carry on.”

Become a support at home volunteer.

Ebola virus disease explained: Q&A



An outbreak of Ebola has left more than 450 people dead in West Africa. The Red Cross, along with other humanitarian agencies, is working to stop the spread of the deadly and highly contagious disease. 

What is the Ebola virus?

Ebola virus disease is a severe and often fatal illness – outbreaks have a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Outbreaks occur predominately in remote villages in Central and West Africa near tropical rainforests. 

The first incidence of Ebola was in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks: in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo close to the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

The origin of the virus is unknown. This is the first time the disease has appeared in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.


Who pays for your wheelchair?

WHHEL_OF_FORTUNE_600x337If you come a cropper and need a wheelchair, your best bet is to either get injured just a little or quite a lot. Confused? You should be.

Here are three interesting health facts you probably don’t know:

1. If you twist your ankle or get a small mobility injury, hospitals in the UK have to provide you with a ‘minor aid’ – such as crutches or a walking frame.

2. If you have a serious illness or injury that will mean long-term use of a wheelchair, hospitals are similarly obliged to provide the equipment. But…

3. If you need a wheelchair for a ‘short-term’ ailment (officially, anything lasting less than six months), then good luck. No official body has any responsibility to help.


Ebola, snakes and witchcraft: stopping the deadly disease in its tracks

In an effort to curb the spread of Ebola in Guinea, volunteers are managing the dead bodies


They call him by his surname, Konneh. His manners are gentle and his voice calm. He’s a volunteer with the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, always willing to help.

The 21-year-old lives in Kenema, one of the largest cities in Sierra Leone. It’s a two-hour drive from his hometown of Daru, in the eastern district of Kailahun, which has been most affected by the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

As of 16 June, there were 92 confirmed cases of Ebola and 44 deaths in Kailahun, according to the World Health Organisation, while several cases have also been confirmed in the west of the country.  

Konneh’s aunt and uncle, from Daru, both died from the disease.  


Coping as a full-time carer

Angela Brown, who used the Red Cross carers' service, smiles in a garden with a cup of teaDuring Carers’ Week, Angela Brown discusses the challenges of being a carer and explains how her local Red Cross service supported her when she needed it most.

Angela Brown remembers the moment she knew something was wrong. In 2005 she was sitting in the garden with her husband John. He turned to her and asked when his mother was coming home. His mother had been dead for 30 years.

John was soon diagnosed with dementia. More

Home is where the volunteer is

Peter-Toplis-BLOGThousands of people struggle to cope at home each year. But a new report shows how the British Red Cross helps many to move on with their lives.

After a stroke left him housebound and isolated, Peter Toplis was at a real low ebb.

Most of his old friends had moved on over the years, so the 60-year-old was stuck alone most of the time.


Lending a hand to two independent women

Pauline Yardley takes after her mother. At 77 years of age, she is active, independent and never sits still for long. Her mother, Hilda, led an active life well past her centenary. Pauline was her mum’s full-time carer until she suffered a fall. In this blog, Beth Finch, health and social care coordinator in Leeds, tells how the Red Cross came to help the two independent women.

The Red Cross helped Pauline Yardley after she suffered a fall

The Red Cross helped Pauline Yardley after she suffered a fall

When we were first told about Pauline, we thought it would be a fairly straight forward case. She was struggling at home having just suffered a fall that resulted in a hip fracture. 

What we didn’t know was that Pauline, then aged 75, was an active, full-time carer for her 104-year-old mother. 


Video: building healthy futures in Sierra Leone

Poor sanitation and a lack of access to clean drinking water mean communities in Sierra Leone are vulnerable to preventable diseases.

Nestled between Guinea and Liberia, the West Africa nation also has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world: an estimated one in 23 women will die from pregnancy-related causes.

This video, produced by the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, explains how the Red Cross is working with communities to save lives.