A GREENOCK gran says not being there when her father and sister died has inspired her to support people in their last hours of life.

Margaret Johnstone is one of the volunteers with No-one Dies Alone (NODA) - a programme run by the Compassionate Inverclyde charity where a companion sits with a dying patient at Inverclyde Royal Hospital or in a care home so they are not by themselves.

The 61-year-old of Cawdor Place, who volunteers over the nightshift between 10pm and 8am, says the project has changed her life.

Margaret said: "To tell you the truth, it has been a privilege and an honour.

"It's about being with people who have nobody at all, or maybe their family needs a break so we're there to step in."

Margaret says volunteering with the project has helped her to come to terms with the loss of her father Thomas Johnstone and her sister Maureen Hagan.

She told the Tele: "When my dad passed away I wasn't there.

"I was volunteering in the Massabielle charity shop and I got a call to say that my dad had died.

"Then my young sister Maureen Hagan passed away from breast cancer and I wasn't there either.

"She was in her thirties and left two children behind.

"She had moved to London at the time and my mum had been travelling up and down to visit her in hospital.

"When I first heard about No-one Dies Alone, I didn't know if I could do it.

"But it has been the best thing I've ever done."

Margaret says she has been through some tough times in her life as a single mum of four but says volunteering has been a life changing experience.

She said: "It's done me a lot of good.

"I feel very proud of myself where otherwise I would maybe have low self esteem.

"I've proved to myself that I can rise above and I feel that I have done something with my life."

Margaret says the reaction the team of volunteers get from patients' families and staff has been amazing.

She said: "The biggest reward is the feedback we get from the families, as you know you are appreciated.

"Recently I was going up to Kincaid House to start volunteering at 10pm.

"I got chatting to the taxi driver and he said he thought it was a great thing I was doing and that everyone should know about it.

"When I got there, I apologised as I only had a £20 note and he said my fare was on the house.

"It was such a lovely gesture.

"The nurses are also really grateful that we are there."

Margaret, who has five granddaughters and two grandsons, hopes to encourage more people to get involved.

She said: "Alison Bunce, who set this up, has helped to make this possible for ordinary people at sad times.

"But we need more people to get involved, especially over the nightshift so that we are always there for people."

Allison Akhtar, volunteer co-ordinator with Compassionate Inverclyde, says the Noda scheme has supported 67 patients in just one year.

She said: "It's such a privilege to be involved - it's very peaceful.

"The nurses are so grateful too as it frees them up to do other things."

*Anyone who is interested in volunteering for the project is asked to get in touch via the Compassionate Inverclyde Facebook page.