Final days shared with love, smiles and music

When David Gulliford arrived at Neringah Hospital, his final chemotherapy treatment had been unsuccessful and it was time for his symptoms to be managed well through palliative care so he could have a good quality of life, for however much remained.

david with harp 580 452A loving, caring and positive husband, father, father-in-law and grandfather, David was delighted to learn that palliative care patients often gathered for a ‘coffee club’ where they shared their life stories and sang their favourite songs.

David would join in from his wheelchair, singing his favourite song, I Am Australian. He told others that he was grateful for the life he had, which he had tried to live as best he could, and that he had no regrets.

As he grew weaker and was more often than not confined to bed, Recreational Activities Officer Hanna Tsoi, brought to him Neringah’s Reverie Harp.

“This is nothing I have seen before,” he said as he enjoyed strumming the harp and feeling the vibrations.

Hanna played his favourite song for him at his bedside, and though he was very weak, he would sometimes open his eyes and even sing with strength and a wide smile, tears in his eyes.

David died in mid-March from metastatic carcinoma of the caecum. His wife, Helen, says she has nothing but praise for the care and compassion David received in his last days.

“The care exceeded all my expectations and I am very grateful to all the staff and volunteers at Neringah Hospital, and the help they gave me and our family in dealing with our great loss.”

The family were able to have a small private funeral for David with plans for a Celebration of David’s Life gathering.

“It has been extremely upsetting and sad that we have not been able to hold the Celebration of David’s Life which was planned for Sunday, March 22 but had to be cancelled because of the restrictions on gatherings, due to the coronavirus. If possible, we plan to hold it at a later date.”

Despite this setback, nothing can take away the memories of David’s big smile and warm heart, and those moments of final joy he had in singing his favourite song to the Reverie Harp.

Neringah Hospital provides an integrated inpatient service and a comprehensive community palliative care service to residents in the surrounding Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai local government areas within northern Sydney.