A Day in the Life of Alison (Ali) Scholefield, Manager at Heartbeat House

I usually arrive at Heartbeat House around 8.20am although I don't officially start until 9.00am. The reason being that I drop my son off at work on the way.  On arrival, I make myself a cup of tea and depending on whether I have had time to grab breakfast, I might have a bowl of cereal or piece of toast before the work day begins.  I enjoy this time of day, as the house guests are awake and are also preparing breakfast and very often, I have to reluctantly decline their kind invitation of a full English.

One of the best parts of the service that we offer, is that a guest can stay for as long as they need too for a non-refundable key deposit of twenty five pounds. We have had people stay at the house for just one night, one week or the longest has been two years!

My colleague Mark, who is Assistant Manager and does maintenance for the charity, arrives shortly before 9.00am and we sit down and go through what we have planned for the day.  This can be as varied as collecting laundry from the rooms and general housekeeping to trimming the hedges in the Heartbeat House Garden, unblocking a toilet or liaising with the staff in the Wessex Cardiac Centre regarding booking in a new arrival.

Today, we have a lady from Guernsey whose husband has been rushed to the Hospital after having a heart attack whilst out walking on the Island.  As with most of our guests, they arrive in a highly emotional state and it is our job to make things for them run as smoothly and as stress free as possible from point of contact.

On arrival at Heartbeat House, she is greeted with a warm welcome and I then show her around the house which includes a kitchen area where she has access to her own cupboard and space in the fridge for her to store her food depending on the length of stay. We always provide free tea and coffee, as sometimes guests arrive having had no or little notice that their loved one is admitted to the cardiac centre for treatment.  She is then shown her bedroom, given keys so she can come and go as she pleases and finally shown our Heartbeat House folder that is always placed in each bedroom.  The folder contains information such as ward numbers, local shops and even definitions of commonly used cardiac terms which again, can help them understand better the jargon used on the ward.

One of the best parts of the service that we offer, is that a guest can stay for as long as they need too at Heartbeat House for a non-refundable key deposit of twenty five pounds.  We have had people stay at the house for just one night, one week or the longest has been two years!

On coming downstairs, Mark has told me he has had to replace a loose wardrobe door in one of the bedrooms and then we both get on with some hoovering and ironing etc.

Whilst I am hoovering one of the hallways, Mark tells me that a nurse from the cardiac centre has phoned to say that one of our guests, Tom has just had the sad news his partner has passed away and is on his way back to the house.  Dealing with a bereavement is unfortunately part of our work here at the house but luckily with the advancements in cardiac procedures, these are rare.

Whilst waiting for him to return, Mark and I are getting ready to say goodbye to a couple from Basingstoke whose son has had a bypass and is being discharged.  On leaving, they stop to buy three of our branded hoodies and give Mark and I a thank you card and a box of chocolates for making their stay such a happy one.

Tom arrives and is understandably upset; this is where our experience of dealing with distressed guests comes to the forefront.  Some guests prefer to be left alone, whilst others just want a bit of comfort and a chat over a cuppa.  Tom wants a chat and I spend about 20 minutes listening to him between the tears (on both our part) recount fond memories of his partner's life and family.

After lunch, some of the guests have gone in to the garden and are laughing and chatting amongst themselves which is lovely to hear, as we do try and make Heartbeat House a relaxing atmosphere despite the guests underlying worries.

The rest of my time is taken up with booking in another guest, changing some bedding and cleaning out one of the fridges. Mark has some painting to do in the Annexe and it is then time for home at 4.00pm.  

I get home, walk my dog Murphy, cook dinner for the rest of the family and then chill out in front of the TV, occasionally thinking of what tomorrow will bring at Heartbeat House.

Alison (Ali) Scholefield