“Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.”
The hardest part of my job and compiling this report in particular, is acknowledging and thanking everyone who contributes to the success of this service and eloquently conveying the magic that is Little Haven with its all its multiple layers.
Tuesday 23rd Sept. 2014
Today for example, struggling to find time and words for this report I got to work at 5.30, only to find Frank, our volunteer for over 14 years, already at work vacuuming out the cars and cleaning the centre. Around 8 two of our newer nurses who, as Bronwyn said felt “right” from start arrive and after a few phone calls go about their visits. Kathy setting off for Kilkivan, Woolooga and Curra and Kelly to do Glastonbury and the town run. With 6 patients each they’ll return in the late afternoon, having shaped their day to spend whatever time is needed with each visit. On their list some patients that have been with us for over a year and some less than a month, ranging in age from 55 to 84 and surprisingly only 7 with cancer, the rest a mix of end stage emphysema, muscular degeneration, MND and as the 84 year old gent insightfully said “It’s a race to see what gets me first ~ the cancer, my heart or old age.” Our patient roster which seems only yesterday was 3 pages long is now 6 – 72 patients in total so far this month including 13 admissions and 14 deaths.
Narelle is next to arrive wielding her basket of bush flower essences, not customary tools in an admin job but skills that have helped many times over to calm and comfort the often scared & anxious families that come through our door. Before long the meditation group convenes. Bereaved, patients, carers and others experiencing hurt in the community, for an hour of peaceful mindfulness, under the gentle guidance of Kate. I can’t describe the energy that flows out of that room when it’s finished but it’s warmth and love personified.
And now the day’s in full swing, Fran our respite volunteer coordinator (after a quick pat of our honorary committee member) starts checking on her clients and their needs for help on any level; someone to sit with their loved one, tend their garden or take them shopping ~ our respite volunteers invaluable in many ways.
Christina our very quiet office volunteer sneaks in to her cubby hole, making up new charts and filing those of the deceased – it’s a busy month for her too. Clients come for their relaxation massage with Jean Marie, just one of our complementary therapists doing a wonderful job of helping to ease pain and lift spirits. After their massage time for a cuppa and a chat about any issues that may be troubling them.
In comes Joyce to unload the left over drinks from Springtime at Springhalls, a very successful fundraising event coordinated by Annette and Helen went off without a hitch last Saturday. Our calendar of events, raising around $90K after expenses this year, add to the fabric of Gympie life with a few stand outs like the Camel Races, A Vintage Affair run by Jan proving a great crowd pleaser and the Heritage Bank Gratitude Walk just the best way to spend a morning. Each event attracts its hoard of volunteers, business sponsors and community supporters doing their bit to ensure success. It’s lovely to see the next generation of Little Haven helpers coming through as waitresses at these events too.
Almost on queue and too good to be true (but it is) St Vinnies arrive returning equipment from the home of a 57 year old lady who died yesterday, just two months away from the completion of her new home. Her husband will now be supported by Sally through his grief. Words are inadequate to thank St Vinnies for their pickup and delivery of our equipment, allowing us to be responsive and effective at getting patients home from hospital at a moments notice. Good for the patients and good for the community too ~ freeing up much needed hospital beds.
Meanwhile outside our latest project the “Peaceful Garden” is abuzz with activity. With Sally our bereavement support nurse taking over the reins from Heika this year I suggested she might like to think about a bereavement garden project for everyone to enjoy. In the blink of an eye with the support of Leuwin and Qld Health giving us the green light, Sally and Bev, the garden architects, have gathered a cast of many to make it happen. Today parole officer Jeff with a team of probationers is spreading soil donated by Gympie Landscape Supplies and pine chip donated by the GRC. What a great community project and the pride on one lads face when he told me he brought his mates past on the weekend to show them what he’s been doing was wonderful. This garden like everything at Little Haven seeded from an idea (pardon the pun), taken ownership of by a few, will continue to flourish and evolve. I look forward to the day hospital patients and staff take refuge in its shade ~ a little corner of peace in busy and stressful times. Well done Sally!
The ping lets me know there’s a message on the Little Haven facebook page from someone asking if we want women’s fitness magazines and novels. (Do I look like I need fitness magazines?) Of course we do!!! Any day at Little Haven is punctuated with enquiries about pickups or drop offs of books, clothes, plants, furniture, and all manner of odds and sods which are carefully sorted and turned over in quick time for funds, so quick in fact that within ½ hr of the books arriving Karen is there to collect them. Our monster book sale continues to be a success thanks to the hard work of Karen, Moira & helpers and raised $11.4K. Tomorrow Jill or Arthur will be in collecting the bits and bobs before opening up the sheds for sales to the public. What a fantastic story and group of hard working volunteers the shop/shed crew are raising $95K this year. Starting years ago with a core group of “Marketeers” running street stalls, then occasional pop up shops, they’ve grown in numbers and momentum to what they are today. 40 plus volunteers working round the clock to provide a constant flow of funds into the Little Haven account. A huge thank you to Anne for her coordination the past few years, now stepping back for a well-earned break, Arthur, Jeff, Barry and the men who do the heavy lifting and open the sheds on Wednesday, all the volunteers who’ve created their own niche making sure every shop is better than the last. We are indebted to Brandy and her family for the generous use of the sheds and of course the public who support us with a constant source of saleable goods. Our next shed sale is on this Saturday!!
As with any day at Little Haven when a patient or family member walks through the door nothing else matters ~ not even this report to be written and today is no exception. Two families visited to arrange the impending discharge of their loved ones from hospital. Arrangements for equipment delivery were made, and thankfully the recent $3.5K donation from the Historical Motor Cycle Club will see a new bed delivered straight to Cooloola Cove on Thursday. We talked at length with a young man and his mum fearful of how they would manage the disease related confusion and aggression their dad/husband was showing but eager to get him home, and reassuring them our nurses will be available 24/7 to support and help through the tough times. It’s not long before Dr Taj from the hospital comes in to also discuss his concerns about how they’ll cope, and I’m reminded how wonderful it is that Qld Health have gifted us this onsite facility to allow for such seamless communication.
With a minute to myself there are a few final details for the AGM I need the committee’s input on, so I compose a group email and within minutes the responses/ guidance start coming in. That’s just what you want from a committee, not there to interfere with the day to day running of the organisation but always there to support decisions or offer advice when needed. I’m very grateful for their support this year and for their unwavering commitment to our mission in all decisions made. Tonight we farewell Brandy from the role as President but not from the organisation because Little Haven is literally in her blood, as it is all the members of the Little family and I thank them for all the generous ways they show their support. Thank you Helen for taking on the role of President which I know you will do with aplomb. In Narelle’s absence (she’s oversees doing mission work) we thank her for all the value she’s added to Little Haven over her 14 years on the committee and welcome Bronwyn into the role of Nursing Representative.
The day’s nearly done as the nurses return from their visits, but it’s not over for Kathy the on call nurse who needs to commence a syringe driver on a young woman with ovarian cancer to ease her increased pain and nausea, and I hope for everyone’s sake she settles down for a peaceful night. As she leaves, in pops the security man to buy his weekly jar of Little Haven jam, “Dorothy’s or Jill’s, they’re both delicious” and it occurs to me it’s one of Diana’s rare days off …. She’ll be back tomorrow. Diana and her raffle sellers raising $29K this year.
And so it was just another day at Little Haven ~ so many people pulling together, engaged and committed to ensuring Little Haven is here when anyone within the length and breadth of the Gympie region and beyond needs our care. Partners in our care of the terminally ill, their carers, the bereaved and people requiring support through their cancer treatments.
With too many contributors to possibly name and thank tonight I invite you to turn to the back 2 pages of your booklet, but it’s essential that I thank our nurses.
Bronwyn what can I say, no one gives more to Little Haven than you do. Always there, gently guiding our nurses, leading by example and treating everyone who comes through our service with dignity and respect. Despite 167 patients being cared for last year, one of our bereaved was so shocked by the number of names read out at our annual memorial service, saying “I thought we were the only ones” , and for that the entire team is to be congratulated. I know the stress you were under at the time of Mitch’s death with 3 other patients in the very end stage of life, but you gave them no inkling. We are very lucky to have the nurses we have, a great team working together well to support each other and giving our patients’ individualised optimum care.
It’s late and this is very long and still there are so many stories that deserve to be told …like the wonderful work of our chemo volunteers; the amazing support we receive from The Gympie Times, recently voted Australia’s number one community newspaper; how lucky this community is to have not just Little Haven but also brilliant inpatient care available for those that need it; the glowing comments we receive on our patient / carer satisfaction survey’s; how grateful we are to Skill Centred for the use of an additional car and to Leuwin for the extra storage space……..but with so much going I can only stick to one day, so if you’re not part of this story don’t feel your contributions are not appreciated, it’s just that you didn’t happen to visit the centre today.
As Craig said we have no certainty of funding after June 2015 but whatever happens we are well placed to continue our unique service in this community for as long as this community sees it as a priority, and I trust Qhealth will continue to honour our lease because we love our peaceful refuge here until such times as our dream of a hospice becomes a reality.
I hope you share my pride in our achievements this year knowing that our greatest strength is the personal connection to Little Haven’s work that draws each of us here as…. volunteers, staff or community supporters. If ever your enthusiasm wains come spend a day in the centre and you’ll see for yourself the magic unfold.
Addit: I told you it was magic … As I’m driving home on very late night ABC radio I hear a snippet from a rerun of Dr Norman Swan’s health report and I quote “People introduced early to palliative care live longer and have better health outcomes”.