Watch the moment Queen meets 'inspirational' Suffolk hospital volunteer
PUBLISHED: 08:17 03 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:39 03 April 2019
A Suffolk man whose crushing grief inspired him to help others has been rewarded by the Queen at a reception for outstanding volunteers held at Windsor Castle.
Ron Knight, from Bury St Edmunds, has been volunteering at West Suffolk Hospital three days a week ever since losing his beloved wife more than a decade ago.
The 88-year-old, who volunteers at the eye injection clinic, said helping people at the hospital changed his life by giving him a sense of purpose to distract from his grief.
In 2001, Mr Knight’s wife Betty was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He cared for her full-time at home before she sadly passed away in 2008.
Mr Knight met the Queen at a reception to mark the centenary of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) on Tuesday evening.
He said: “I was devastated when I lost Betty, after 52 years of marriage.
“I felt like I didn’t have any direction in my life, and happened to see an opportunity to volunteer at the West Suffolk Hospital in the eye treatment centre.
“The rest is history – supporting patients and staff in the eye injection clinic has given me a new sense of structure and purpose to my life for the last 10 years.
“I offer reassurance and comfort to all the patients during their injection procedure, and help them if they’re feeling anxious or apprehensive.”
During his time at the hospital as a volunteer, Mr Knight has also had to cope with the tragic loss of his grandson and daughter.
He again cites the staff he volunteers with and his role at the hospital as the support that sustained him through these difficult times.
It was his unwavering dedication and service that saw him invited to the reception, where the Queen paid tribute to the nation’s volunteers.
“Meeting the Queen was a real honour, and was one of the highlights of my life,” he said.
“It really was terrific, and I’m appreciative to everyone who made it happen. She was very kind and made me feel welcome, and thought it was good that our patients have someone to comfort them through a difficult procedure.
“I am very proud of West Suffolk Hospital – it was rated outstanding in the most recent Care Quality Commission report and I believe it truly is.
“It’s so nice to be a small part of such a successful team. I will continue to volunteer as long as I am able, and encourage others to do so too. It is so rewarding and has given me satisfaction and a feeling of self-worth.”
Ian Mckee, voluntary services manager at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are so proud of Ron and truly happy he was given such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet The Queen at Windsor Castle. It is well-deserved, and both our staff and patients appreciate Ron’s kindness and hard work to help those around him. He is definitely West Suffolk royalty in our eyes.”