Palliative care doctor receives unexpected gift from Stuart Wagstaff in his final days

Palliative care specialist, Dr Anthoulla Mohamudally regards building positive rapport with her patients as a key factor in good end-of-life care.

So when Australian television and theatre personality Stuart Wagstaff came into her care at HammondCare’s Greenwich Hospital, Dr Mohamudally set out to develop a connection - as she would with all of her patients.

She soon discovered she had more in common with Mr Wagstaff than she imagined. Dr Mohamudally and Mr Wagstaff came to realise they had attended the same primary school in Epsom, England, although 44 years apart, leading to a close bond.

A few days later, when Dr Mohamudally was doing her hospital rounds, he gifted her two photos from the 1930s showing him in the annual primary school play. At the time, due to Dr Mohamudally’s English background, she was unaware of Mr Wagstaff’s fame in Australia and the additional interest that came with receiving such a gift.

“When I was told who Stuart Wagstaff was, I realised how special it was to receive these rare photographs from his childhood,” said Dr Mohamudally.

stuart wagstaff, Punda Lane school, Epsom, Greenwich Hospital, palliative care

Building a relationship

“Throughout Mr Wagstaff’s television career he would have met a lot of people. It must have been hard to know who to trust and when, which makes it rewarding to know he trusted us to fulfil his end-of-life care wishes.

“At HammondCare we believe it’s crucial to develop a positive connection, and build rapport with our patients in palliative care so they can feel respected in their final days.

“Whether he was a television star or not, knowing that Mr Wagstaff felt secure and comfortable within our hospital lets me know we are caring for people respectfully,” said Dr Mohamudally.

Safe keeping for photographs

Instead of keeping the mementos Mr Wagstaff gave to Dr Mohamudally, she has decided that returning them to their origin would be a better tribute.

“He said I could do what I will with them so it seemed fitting that they be sent back to our primary school in England and put on historical record.

“I think the children and staff will enjoy them thoroughly. It’s exciting for children to see others of their age in time periods gone by. The fences are now lined with cherry blossom trees, the lane is a main road adorned with houses and shops, and I’m not sure you’d see a horse and carriage down the street today like you can spot in one photo!” said Dr Mohamudally.

The photographs will be sent to Pound Lane Primary School (now known as Epsom Primary School), with an explanatory letter for the principal and a book about Australia for the school library.

Stuart Wagstaff died peacefully in Greenwich Hospital from complications associated with pulmonary fibrosis on March 10, 2015. Among many other accolades, Stuart Wagstaff was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1998 for services to the community.

Greenwich Hospital provides palliative care, rehabilitation, older people’s mental health and pain services.