Why these newlywed nurses are spending their first Christmas apart

Inspirational nursing couple Richard and Jean are spending their first Christmas as man and wife away from each other. Instead of giving each other gifts, they’ll be at work – giving hands-on care to people living with a terminal illness. But without their shared passion for nursing, they may never have found one another.

A Marie Curie romance: Richard and Jean

“When we first met about 18 months ago, Jean was working at a care home in Dumfries and I was working as a Marie Curie rapid response nurse in County Durham,” explains Richard.

“I could see Jean was made for palliative care. I managed to persuade her to move down to Newcastle and join Marie Curie.

“I persuaded her to marry me too!

“Now that we both work for Marie Curie, our paths often cross during our working day.

“Jean’s work involves looking after one person overnight, so she sometimes needs to call my rapid response team for specialist assistance.”

We do everything we possibly can to relieve the pain and distress that families experience. If we’ve done our job properly we’ll never be forgotten.

“This year, Jean and I have volunteered to work over the Christmas period.

“Nursing is a round-the-clock job. For the people we look after, having loved ones die over the Christmas period can sometimes makes the loss even more acute.

“All we hope to achieve this Christmas is to ease that pain.”

“A hospice in those days was a completely different place compared to now”

“My interest in volunteering began when I read a book about a little boy who died after having cancer. I thought to myself that I’d like to be able to help in some way.

“I become a volunteer at the Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1970.

Jean and Richard on their wedding day this year in the Canadian Rockies

“A hospice in those days was a completely different place compared to now, with up to 43 patients squeezed into a few small rooms.

“After completing my nursing training in 1974, I began working for Marie Curie. I worked in the Newcastle hospice in the nineties, and returned to work with Marie Curie in the Midlands in 2011. Since 2013, I’ve been with the Marie Curie rapid response team in Durham.

“Jean has also had a varied career, including working for ten years with the Scottish Prison Service. During this time, Jean helped to set up the first palliative care service in a Scottish prison.”

“Ready to respond to someone in pain”

“The team work every minute of the year in three different shifts over the 24 hour period.

“When we receive a call from a district nurse, GP, or the patient’s family, we leave as soon as possible.

“We’re ready to respond to a patient in pain or with other distressing symptoms.”

“We walk into a patient’s house as strangers and leave as friends”

“The end of a patient’s life brings enormous stress to families so we spend much of our time supporting them.

“Great sensitivity is required during this upsetting time. I often feel that we walk into a patient’s house as complete strangers and leave as friends.

“We do everything we possibly can to relieve the pain and distress that families experience. If we’ve done our job properly we’ll never be forgotten.”

Everyone deserves the kind of care at the end their lives that Richard and Jean provide. Help us reach more people and families by donating to Marie Curie this Christmas.