LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – I write in strong support of a stand-alone palliative care hospice in Alice Springs.
My 49-year-old husband became increasing unwell in August 2015 and was diagnosed with a disseminated, inoperable terminal cancer. He received excellent rapid medical treatment in Alice and then was swiftly taken to Darwin for palliative radiation at the Alan Walker Centre.
The domestic plane he travelled on that day was delayed and he was vomiting and in pain from sitting for a long time and becoming rapidly dehydrated.
When we arrived in Darwin I took him immediately to Royal Darwin Hospital where he was admitted for rehydration and assessment.
After prompt initial treatment in Emergency Department and some pain relief and anti emetics he was admitted to the Rehabilitation Ward as this was this was the only available bed.
In the next 24 hours his pain, nausea and vomiting were still not well controlled and he was distressed and tired. I too was exhausted from lack of sleep and constant advocating for better pain relief and nausea control.
There was no chair for me to sit near him and I contemplated putting a towel on the floor to rest and lie down. I personally attended to his hygiene including showering him and getting him ready for his treatments.
The nursing staff did not identify his immediate needs as adequate pain relief and nausea control and I had to search for staff to try and meet these rudimentary needs.
His medical results showed that he was close to liver failure and he was transferred to the palliative care unit.
Once we arrived there care started. His pain was adequately assessed by appropriate experts and controlled within hours.
His nausea medication was changed and was immediately controlled. My husband’s demeanor went from distress and lack of control to peaceful. He said he felt safe at last and calm.
He stayed there for about a week where he was able to have his brother from Canada stay with him. His condition improved so he was able to walk around and finish his radiation treatment.
His treatment at the Palliative Care Unit was specifically targeted for him. Without swift and expert staff he may not have survived that week as treatment of his disease was time critical and he was close to tipping point.
I tell this lengthy story as it is a clear example of why a specific palliative care hospice is vital for Alice. This week in the palliative care allowed my husband and I to come to terms with this life changing disease.
Expert care changed the likely outcome of his imminent death. Darwin Hospice was a place of tranquility. It was restorative for both of us and made us feel safe and in control. My husband initially didn’t want to leave as he feared returning to Alice without this expert support.
Thijl’s treatment is effective for the short term but he will ultimately need this care once again. It would be fabulous if he could use the promised facility in Alice Springs that the Northern Territory has allocated funds for in 2015.
I ask that this stand-alone facility is built as promised and funded.
Kate Podger and Thijl Duvekot
Traumatic trip shows need for palliative care hospice
LETTER TO THE EDITOR