Cliff has been a Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals Charity volunteer for 9 years. Cliff first came into the care of Harefield in 2011 when he had a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) implanted into his chest, which helps pump blood from the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle) to the rest of the body.

In 2013, Cliff came back into the hospital having been added to the urgent list for a heart transplant. So, as weeks turned to months and boredom started to set in, he asked the Charity if there was anything he could do to help. He was allowed to walk around the hospital but wasn’t allowed home and felt he could do something. They offered him a role of manning the merchandise stand in the hospital main entrance. This gave him the opportunity to chat to other patients and visitors, giving him a sense of purpose.

Around the same time, he also joined the rb&hArts’ singing for breathing group, which helped him keep busy and active. He returned to the group a year after transplant as it means so much to him and he is still an active member.

Cliff had his heart transplant in 2014 and it took him a year to recover. As soon as he was able to return to volunteering, he did, as he enjoyed the role so much. Over the years he’s sold over £30,000 worth of merchandise!

In addition to this he took on a fundraising role as well as helping out at fundraising events. In 2016, Cliff took part in the canal challenge, which involved walking 26 miles from Brompton to Harefield, along the towpath. He was only allowed to do half the journey, but raised over £1k with his son.

He also completed the London Bridges Walk, not once, but twice! He enjoyed the London sights so much that he was the last to finish!

Speaking about his volunteering Cliff said: “Giving back to the hospital for the great care that I received is a real motivator for me to keep coming back to help. Having the transplant and having to shield through the global pandemic, my outlook in life has completely changed. Things that I may have complained about before are now just trivial things that I don’t think twice about.

“I was in the unique position of being a patient, but also someone with lived experience of having the LVAD procedure and then the transplant. I was able to provide reassurance to families with loved ones going through the same procedures and talk to them about my experiences, answering the non-medical questions they had. I was an unofficial ambassador!”

Lisa Watts, community and events fundraising manager at Royal Brompton added: “The only way to describe Cliff James is to say he is an absolute legend! He is one of the kindest people I have ever met and there is nothing he won’t do to help our two wonderful hospitals. Pre-covid, Cliff was always on a mission to smash through the total sales he had made the previous week or month when selling the Charity merch in the hospitals. Cliff is a delight to be around, and I have missed him over the last two years.”

Are you inspired to volunteer for the Charity like Cliff? If so, you can find out more about our volunteering opportunities below:

Volunteer for the Charity