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My father died and I have a lot of people to thank

Recently I shared some of my learnings from my palliative care journey with my father. You can read that post here but essentially I was talking about how technology (specifically facetime & My Health Record) was enhancing patient-centred care.

Palliative care deals with constantly changing needs. Palliative care demands a fast, co-ordinated approach across many health professionals and service deliverers. As we also know palliative care does not stop when there are catastrophic events like bushfires happening. Patients don’t suddenly become mobile because they need to get out of the path of a fire. In fact, the demands on palliative care providers increase significantly, services are stretched.

Unfortunately in his final days of life dad had to be evacuated due to the bushfires. He did not die at home as per his wishes however, despite the challenges of the time, the entire healthcare ‘team’ were incredible!

With fires raging around, dad’s GP, Palliative Care Nurses, Plunketts Pharmacy and home equipment supplier Vital Living all made regular house calls, shared their private mobile phone numbers, helped fight for services – AT THE SAME TIME AS FIGHTING FIRES! Seriously, some would rush from our house to theirs to defend their properties.

In my opinion anyone working in the field of palliative care deserves to be celebrated – it is beyond tough. However anyone providing palliative care whilst also fighting fires is an absolute hero. On behalf of my family I would like to publicly acknowledge and thank the entire Port Macquarie healthcare team, especially:

A/Prof Debbie Kors – longstanding GP
Dr David Chessor – GP attending at time of death
Donna – Palliative Care Nurse
Port Macquarie Palliative Care Team of nurses.
Susan – Catholic Care of the Aged (CCA) home carer
Karen (CCA home carer)
Therese (CCA family liaison)
Plunketts Pharmacy team
Bellevue Gardens Retirement Village (1st evacuation point)
Emmaus Nursing Home staff (2nd evacuation point)
Chrissy & the team – Hastings Funeral Home
Hairdresser Jenny Forwood
Lincoln Gardens Village community

Special thanks to the team at Westside Medical Centre:

As readers of this blog might know (especially those who followed our 2018 US study tour) team #TrainITMedical allied health guru OTBrooke is also my sister.
In Brooke’s words:

“They made him comfortable and they never gave up. They worked together. They all made house calls. They were really responsive to his wishes and they really did everything they could to manage his symptoms really well. Between the palliative care nurse team and Dr Kors they managed those two horrific symptoms of pain and nausea really well.”

Our heartfelt gratitude to Prof Debbie Kors, Principal of Westside Medical Centre and to every wonderful practice nurse and team member who has cared for our parents over many years. Westside is a truly remarkable practice (and between OT Brooke & I we have over 60 years experience working in health practices across two countries so we know exceptional when we see it).

To put this in perspective my father had his first heart attack aged 25, quadruple bypass at 55. His medical history & medication list was over two pages long! I often talked about him and Prof Kors in my training as a shining example of successful team-based chronic condition management. He was 89 when he died and there is not a doubt in my mind that the exceptional care provided by Prof Kors and her team led to longevity and enhanced quality of life.

To team Westside – I am sure you do not receive as much thanks as you deserve for helping keep patients well. We thank you for doing what you do and for teaching the next generation too.

To the palliative care nurses – I have no words that do justice – you are angels for choosing your path in life and I will fight for improvements for you and for inclusion in every health conversation from now on. These are important conversations we all need to have.

Thank you to my wonderful clients. I always knew my clients were the best but your kindness, understanding and hugs over the last 6 months (when my responses were often delayed) supported and uplifted me and I am very grateful to you all.

Providing palliative care was a completely new and harrowing experience for me and a major new learning experience. It was not a new or unusual experience for my clinician sister though. As an Occupational Therapist her role is all about quality of life – for whatever her patient needs at that point in time. In this instance she was both OT and daughter and Brooke also has her own insights and list of people to thank. Top of that list is someone she calls ‘the unsung hero’ of this healthcare story. We will share that tomorrow.

With best wishes to you all
Katrina Otto, Train IT Medical Managing Director, daughter, carer, health advocate

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Resources & further learning:

Podcast: Dr Merran Cooper from Touchstone Life Care talk about ‘A Healthy Death’.
Video: Dying: Start the Conversation 

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