On 24th May this year, my husband John took his last breath at home at Marian Grove. By his side were our sons Tim and Peter, and myself. To the three of us this was a great privilege, as John had held this wish throughout his life. However it would not have been viable without the wonderful help and support of Coffs Harbor Palliative Care.

Early in January John became breathless and also had a persistent cough. On the 20th of that month he had chest x rays and blood tests.

These showed fluid on his right lung which was then drained and over 2 litres of fluid removed. Following on a visit to the specialist, he was advised that the only option was surgery to remove part of his lung but this required a trip down to Sydney and at his age John did not want to go down that path. After further x rays, he was admitted to the Base Hospital to ascertain whether a permanent drain was the answer. As this was not successful, John left the hospital on 25th January with a referral to Dr. Dan Curley at Palliative Care. This was when the wonderful help, care and devotion of the palliative care nurses came into our lives.

At first their visits were weekly, with follow up phone calls as the team organized medications and monitored their effect on John. As he grew weaker, they were also a great help with showering him and keeping him a little mobile.

By the end of April due to weakness, irregular breathing and coughing, John became confined to bed so a hospital bed was brought in to help us to move him when necessary. It also had a special mattress to eliminate the risk of bed sores on pressure points. At this time Silver Circle came to attend to John’s hygiene. This was organized with palliative Care and it gave our family more quality time to spend with John in what were his final days on earth.

As well as helping to nurse John we were also assisted with making the necessary arrangements for people who die at home. When we go back to the past  it was normal for people to die at home and those left behind were proud to have nursed them and then to bury them with love and dignity.

As I have already said, we as a family felt it was an honor indeed to be with John when he left us. We were able to light a candle for him, to sing to him and to thank him for being a wonderful husband and father.

From Dympna Keough.

The Palliative Pathway:

Would you like more information about Palliative Care? Do you have a story you’d like to share? Stay tuned because in October we will be hosting a Morning Tea with speakers from Palliative Care, as well as our own Dympna Keough and Sr. Anne Henson. Death and dying need not be frightening and isolating subjects. Information is power and we all have choices we can make around this pathway. More in the next In Touch Newsletter…