Stroke patient Ivan’s long stay at Braeside leads to new multilingual library

HammondCare’s Braeside Hospital now has a multilingual library of 50 books, catering for the diverse needs of patients after a Fairfield bookshop learned of a Croatian-speaking rehabilitation patient having no access to reading material in his native tongue.

braeside books 02 580Ivan Petkovic, 82, spent three long months in the rehabilitation ward at Braeside Hospital earlier this year recovering from stroke. The Croatian immigrant – who had few visitors due to COVID-19 restrictions – never complained but quietly struggled to pass the hours as he continued his recovery.

Pastoral Care Coordinator, Karryn Chivers, discovered Ivan’s loneliness during her regular visits to the ward.

“Upon getting to know Ivan I could see that he was really not a television person, and we had no Croatian books to offer him to read,” Karryn recalls. “I brought him a tablet to use so he could log into some Croation music but it really was not his thing.

“One day I arrived to visit him and discovered him reading a Croatian book that his son had brought him.The next week he beamed as he told me he was reading it through for the second time.”

Rehabilitation ward clerk, Audrey Samuel, heard about Ivan’s interest in books and passed on her thoughts to her daughter Eden, who works at multilingual bookshop Lost in Books. A short time later, Eden arrived with 15 bags full of books in a range of different languages that reflect the diversity of backgrounds of patients admitted to Braeside.

Karryn said: “What a fantastic gift this is to our wonderful multicultural hospital community.”

In the 2019-20 financial year, 335 of the 740 patients admitted to Braeside in all wards had a first language other than English. Of those whose first language is not English, 54 of these were Vietnamese speakers, 52 were Arabic speakers, 40 Italian, 25 Assyrian, 23 Cantonese, 21 Spanish and 18 Serbian. Among the titles donated, there is Lam Ngoc by Kerstin Gier written in Vietnamese, Bir Umut Daha by Nora Roberts (Turkish), My Mothers Sari by Sandya Rao (Persian) and Gli Dei Bambino by Raffaela Dore (Italian). There is even a Stephen King thriller in Spanish.

It is hoped the generous donation will be just the start of a growing library.

Jane Stratton, Chief Executive of the Think+DO Tank Foundation that runs Lost in Books, said it was central to the charity’s work to “put books into the hands of people who need them”.

She described Lost in Books as “a multilingual kids’ bookshop, café, safe space for women, creative learning centre and language hub in Fairfield”.

“It’s central to our mission to bring people reading material and promote story telling in all languages in the community,” Ms Stratton said.

Ivan completed his recovery in late August, courtesy of the skilled health professionals at Braeside, and returned home before the donated books arrived. An unfortunate irony of the generous book donation was that none of the 50 books are in Croatian. Turns out, Croatian books are hard to come by in Australia.

Karryn is personally reaching out to the Croation community, including the Croatian Catholic Church, to source some literature in this language to meet the needs of future Croatian speaking patients.

“Ivan’s loneliness started all this, so I want to find some books in his language in case he visits us again,” Karryn said. The hospital is also searching for a cabinet or bookcase to accommodate the new library in the rehabilitation ward area.

HammondCare offers rehabilitation services from Braeside and Greenwich Hospitals as well as for outpatients and in the community.

CAPTION: (From left) Braeside Hospital's Director of Medical Services Dr Friedbert Kohler with Aroha Sakira, Eden Samuel, Audrey Samuel and Karryn Chivers.