Michael, in his own words, is “not much of a mixer”: “I say hello to neighbours, exchange greetings and Christmas cards, but I don’t have too much to do with them,” he says. “I’m a little bit of a loner; I don't require a lot of contact.” So when Michael was hospitalised in December of last year, there were few options for support when he came home.

Michael retired from his job as a mechanic in 2012, and since then has experienced a number of problems with his health. The same year he retired Michael was first diagnosed with bowel cancer, and has had subsequent issues with his heart, with ulcers, and with his mobility. “Just a bit stressful!” he says.

It was during his third stay in hospital in 2021 that he heard about GoodGym, after receiving a pamphlet from a British Red Cross volunteer. Until his first hospitalisation, Michael had been fetching his own shopping, going out twice a week by taxi; he also received deliveries from his “lovely” local butcher, and could “wander down the road” to small local shops if necessary.

With seriously limited mobility, however, it was no longer possible to go out, even by taxi, and the large collection of tinned food he had accumulated became quickly depleted. With no tablet or computer, online shopping was also out of the question. Living alone, and with no neighbours to ask for help, Michael had very little support when it came to shopping.

An illustration of a person in a wheelchair with someone bringing in their shopping

Enter Dave, a GoodGym runner from the same area of Bristol as Michael. Dave has visited Michael four times: Michael describes Dave as a “lovely bloke, very pleasant”, and believes he is in his early 40s (“it’s difficult wearing a mask, I might be insulting the guy!”). Of particular help is Dave’s ability to lift heavy items: even if Michael were able to start shopping for himself again in more local stores, he no longer has the strength to carry heavy bags filled with those much-needed tins.

“I can’t lift anything, I have no capacity for walking any distance, I’m asthmatic,” Michael says. “But for the time being I have Dave’s number, and he said if I need any more help I can just give him a bell and we can arrange a time. Which is brilliant for me.”

After his good experiences with Dave, Michael is also hoping to get some help from GoodGym in taming his garden, which he says currently resembles a “jungle”. “The animals like it – I’ve got foxes and squirrels, and they’re getting to know me. But it would be good to get some help with it.”

While he recovers, Michael spends much of his time reading – he particularly enjoys science fiction – and jigsaw puzzles, and eagerly anticipated the re-opening of pubs so he is able to visit when his mobility has improved. The “first test” of his ability to do things around the house is coming down the stairs in the morning, he says: “if I can manage that, I can work the day around that,” he says. He’s slowly trying to leave the house more and more, in short spurts, in order to keep his mobility “as much as I can for as long as I can”; in particular, he is keen not to live in one room, so has thus far refused the option to sleep downstairs.

Meeting Dave, Michael says, “was lovely... it more than lived up to expectations”. It has also given him an extra burst of motivation to get out of the house himself, back to the local shops and an in-person visit to the butchers: receiving help and support from someone else, in other words, has not only helped him practically but spurred him on to regain the life he enjoyed before his illness by helping him stay as independent as possible.

“It’s made me want to try to get myself more mobile, try to push it as far as I can,” he says.

“I’ve got to see how it goes, to see if I can get some of my own provisions in. I don't want to completely stagnate, and Dave has helped me with that.”