Behind the Mask with Marie Curie Volunteer Susan Court
Updated: Jan 27
We continue to explore this powerful story of patient care, teamwork and the photographers who’ve reached out to help them shine.
This photo below of Marie Curie volunteer Susan Court, was amongst the 100, Behind the Mask, exhibited portraits of UK healthcare workers for the 2020 Vision Project. Cardiff based portrait photographer Paul Hindmarsh, was assigned to the Marie Curie hospice in Penarth, South Wales. The 2020 Vision Project went behind the mask to capture healthcare workers across their 9 UK hospices. Susan Court was photographed by Paul after the first lockdown. He captured beautifully the moment Susan was reunited with her granddaughter Katie.
Working for my team in Isolation
Susan’s work has been crucial in developing and expanding the bereavement companion service throughout Wales. She's been helping to support families having to deal with grief during these difficult times. However for Susan, her own challenge was isolation from her fellow work colleagues and her beloved family.
"I had worked from home since March 2020, when I had to leave the Marie Curie Hospice in Penarth. I had to shield due to a compromised immune system. This has meant that I had not been able to see Katie, my beautiful granddaughter. We usually spend wonderful times together visiting garden centres and enjoying the joy of planting and watching our flowers blossom. "
"These times have provided me with much needed life balance, as my work role involves supporting Marie Curie volunteers as they provide telephone support to those experiencing grief and loss. This has been most challenging over the past months, as the impact of the pandemic meant our service was sadly needed by more and more people."
"During lockdown (1), my daughter and her partner, who own a local cafe, have been able to offer support to our local hospital and the hospice. One of the most thoughtful things they did was deliver individual afternoon cream teas as a wonderful treat to my colleagues who were working with such care and compassion, in very difficult and changing circumstances. These little kindnesses make such huge differences to just make life a little better."
Reunited in a photo session
Photographer Paul Hindmarsh, patiently waited for when Welsh social distancing measures were set over the summer of 2020. He then organised the photo session with Susan, where she could be reunited with her treasured granddaughter Katie, who she missed so terribly.
"It was a lovely shoot with Susan and her granddaughter, particularly as it was their first time being together after a long period apart."
"With a great deal of enthusiasm, we discussed several options, and two things stood out. Her garden was her 'happy place' and had been of great benefit to her during lockdown. Her daughter owns some tea rooms locally, so Susan decided that it would be nice for her and her grand daughter to have a tea party on Susan's back garden. It was obvious how much Susan and her granddaughter care about each other, and how much fun they had. I think you can see this in the portrait.
Capturing bonds between people is one of the many reasons why I love creating portraits, as this leaves behind something which is timeless, that can be treasured forever."
Paul has photographed other healthcare workers which we hope to feature in our March online exhibition.
Marie Curie Hospice Cardiff Update
We have been in touch with the wonderful Marie Curie team over the months, as we arranged nominated team members for the different Marie Curie, 'behind the mask' photo shoots across the UK. For this post, we decided to get an update from Sarah Lloyd-Davies, the Deputy Head of Service Delivery for Marie Curie in Wales.
How have the last few months been?
“We continue to provide care to people at the end of life, or for any symptoms they may have relating to their terminal illness. However, our visiting policy has changed in order to protect patients, families and staff, which makes the hospice feel different to how it does outside of the pandemic.
We work with families to try to arrange virtual contact where we can, and our nurses try to do all they can to make patients feel like they are family, but the staff do miss having those conversations with family and including the whole family in the end of life care of their loved ones. During Christmas, we made sure we decorated the hospice garden with lots of twinkling lights, so that patients could see them from the windows of their rooms which all look out onto the garden. Our staff made sure Christmas Day was a festive affair.”
How are people coping?
“Our staff are understandably anxious about the third lockdown, but we continue to support each other. The team has always been like a family, and are even more so now. "
"We continue to make sure people get clinical supervisions, group huddles and we also make use of the Employee Assist programme. We are all pulling together through difficult times, and the vaccine rollout is giving us all more hope.”
What help do you need from the public?
“We need the public to continue fundraising for us and raising awareness of our work. Our usual fundraising activities continue to take a hit, and so whatever people can do to support us virtually or at home is so vital to enable us to continue supporting people at the hospice and in their own homes across Wales, be that as a patient or as a grieving loved one.”
Marie Curie have a daffodil emergency appeal , if you'd like to make a donation, or have someone who needs support, their helpline is 0800 090 2309. If you or someone you know needs bereavement support you can contact them or use their online live chat service.
The 2020 Vision Project
The 2020 Vision Project is a collective of talented UK portrait photographers and visual storytellers. Each share their creative vision towards a visual commemoration of healthcare workers nationwide.
The ‘behind the mask’ 2020 Vision Project portraits, reflect our healthcare workers’ dedication, resilience, courage and teamwork throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We share the human story and over the coming weeks we will be highlighting stories, as we work towards more exhibitions of these beautiful validating portraits.