When I was asked to accompany a relative who was going for treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital,I was very anxious. I am the last person to be there where people are suffering and I usually break down myself. I saw images of people terrified and in distress because of what had happened in their families. But there was no one else who could replace me.
We were lent one of the twelve apartments at Puttinu House, Cheam Road, Sutton. On arrival we were met by Mr Paul Farrugia, a retired Maltese who lives in the area and takes care of the apartments. He showed us round and explained how we were to use the appliances and also told us where the nearest shops were and how to get to the city centre at Sutton.The airy apartment consisted of two bedrooms, a bathroom and a shower, and a spacious room combining kitchen, dining and sitting room. No luxuries, but all that a person needs for a comfortable stay. There was a cooker, microwave, fridge, freezer, washing machine and drier. Beside English channels, the TV had the most popular Maltese stations — TVM, TVM2, Net TV and Super1. Also Rai 1 .During our long stay, a group of three technicians arrived from Malta and updated the TV network. There was of course the telephone, but more important was the free wi-fi system. The patient could easily keep free contact with his family and they in Malta would feel less strained when they saw him in person. We soon realised that whoever planned Puttinu House did his utmost to provide all amenities for the patients.
The block of apartments are surrounded by a garden and at the back there is a common-room and a large yard with benches. Recuperating patients and their helpers can relax here as the only sound is that of the different birds. These often fly down to join them and we used to try and guess their species. Incidentally, daily visitors here are a fox, his vixen and their cubs. They usually arrive at 10pm, looking for food.
Sunday was special. A short distance away from Puttinu House is St.Martin’s, the first Puttinu house. A room in the ground floor flat was converted into a chapel where Sunday mass is celebrated in Maltese. During my stay, there were Fr.Charles, Fr.Stephen and Fr. David.They also visited the patients in hospital and even in the apartments to see to their needs. After Mass there is tea or coffee and the famous Maltese cheesecakes which are a contribution from a generous Maltese person and supplied from Malta from time to time. During this gathering, all exchange experiences, talk about their treatment and encourage each other. Naturally, there is a lot of anxiety among the patients, but there is also a great deal of hope and Maltese bonhomie. I once listened to two youths who were undergoing serious treatment. In Malta they belonged to communities in different villages and they were planning to organise a joint meeting of the two communities as soon as they were back in Malta. At the houses of Puttinu you are encouraged to look beyond your troubles.
Although The Royal Marsden is walking distance away from Puttinu House, several patients attend hospitals which are quite far away. They have a lot of travelling by bus, train and often by taxi. That is why Puttinu Cares is planning to obtain a more central location, so that such patients will benefit from less stress, less travelling and naturally less expenses.
I must also mention a lovely Maltese couple living close to Sutton. They are Paul and Lina Camilleri. These volunteers help as much as possible and even go out of their way by taking people out in their car to show them scenic places in the area.
I never realised my stay at Puttinu House would be such a heartening experience. I spent ten weeks there. Fortunately, although homesick, my stay at Puttinu House was less traumatic owing to the place and the people who work there. May God bless the originators of this organisation and all the people who try hard to make it such a huge success.