‘It’s about living, not about dying’
‘‘It's a real privilege to be involved with these families. We meet the most amazing people.’’
It’s a bustling morning for the staff at Lower Hutt’s Te Omanga Hospice.
In a side room, the nurses prep for the day, making phone calls and consulting with doctors about the patients they’ll be seeing.
One nurse comes over and apologises for having a loud discussion over the phone near me about bowels.
‘‘It happens a lot here!’’ she said.
By mid-morning, most nurses have filtered out of the room, off on their rounds. Typically nurses spend their day on the road, travelling the Hutt Valley and see between two and six patients a day.
Palliative care nurse Christine is bundling up the last of her notes. She’s got a full schedule - six patients to see for the day.
She is one of the hospice’s nurses helping care for people with life-limiting illnesses.
Her first stop is to check up on a man with pain complaints.
George Smollett sits in a comfy armchair, covered in a bright red blanket. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and is catching up with both Christine and a doctor to talk about pain medication.
His wife, Jamlang, takes notes on what the doctor says, while the couple’s dog Maggie, sniffs curiously around the visitors.
Smollett and the doctor swap jokes but Christine can’t stay long, already out the door to see her next patient.
‘‘It’s a real privilege to be involved with these families. We meet the most amazing people,’’ Christine said.
Next stop is up in the Kelson hills.
Mary Campbell has terminal duodenal adenocarcinoma. Her cancer started off as an ulcer earlier this year, but developed into a serious growth, her husband Darin said.
Campbell’s family has been gathering around her for the last few days, coming from as far away as Australia to say their goodbyes.
Darin Campbell lies in his wife’s bed, holding her hand as Christine checks her over and takes a look at her syringe driver - a little device that can administer medication over a 24-hour period.
‘‘It’s very good for patients who can no longer swallow,’’ Christine
said, as she carefully measures out medication from little glass bottles.
Before she leaves, she stoops to give Mary a hug goodbye.
Day to day, Christine sees people in different states of health. It can be tough, but it’s all part of the job.
‘‘Most of our patients stay at home,’’ she said, ‘‘and most people probably want to die at home.’’
That’s why the hospice’s care is holistic.
As well as doctors and nurses, patients also have access to therapists, social workers and Ma¯ori liaison workers.
As the day wears on, Christine has clocked up a few kilometres in the car but she’s only about halfway through her patient list.
At her next stop, as she steps up to knock on the door, she can tell something’s not quite right.
‘‘Normally you can hear the TV blaring,’’ she said.
The door’s locked and knocking brings no response.
She’s meant to be checking in with a man suffering from chronic lung disease.
A passing neighbour spots her at the door.