‘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.

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