Andrew's Story

Andrew lies in his palliative care bed at home with cat Bella beside himIt was January 2016 when Andrew, aged 47, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. Following surgery to remove the cancer and after radiation and chemotherapy treatment he enjoyed fairly good health for almost three years until the cancer reappeared in February 2019. This time it was deeper in the brain and surgical options posed an excessive risk. Radiation and chemotherapy couldn’t contain the cancer and by October Andrew was less mobile. Another seizure last December saw him admitted to hospital.

With the seizures under control, Andrew was able to go home and thanks to a network of palliative care team members, his wife Judy and their two children were able to share beautiful moments with Andrew who chose to die at home.

Early in Andrew’s diagnosis, the HammondCare Community Palliative Care Service spent time talking with Andrew and Judy to better understand what aspects of quality-of-life were important for him to maintain while living with brain cancer. Spending time with family, friends and being surrounded by loved ones remained high on Andrew’s list to the end.

As Andrew’s condition deteriorated, the focus of his care shifted to ensuring he was comfortable and pain free. The key was to make sure Andrew was stable enough to stay at home with Judy, the kids and their cat Bella.

As a family they have many precious Christmas memories but none as important as those made possible by time shared at home last Christmas.

Careworker Nives looks at a photo of Andrew with JudyEarlier in 2020, government funding to help patients meet the cost of hiring palliative care equipment for use at home, was unfortunately withdrawn.

Staff like Marissa – one of HammondCare’s occupational therapists who helped teach Andrew and Judy how to use their hoist and special care bed – knows how invaluable access to those funds were for families – particularly those at end-of-life. Without subsidy, this is a cost that places an excessive burden on many families challenged by dramatically reduced family income.

Judy said having an adjustable care bed and a hoist at home was a great relief. “The bed with its special air mattress made all the difference and helped minimise that constant worry about Andrew getting pressure sores. When it arrived, we knew we could keep Andrew comfortable and safe at home.”

A wonderfully supportive team of amazing care workers, like Nives, helped Judy maintain a household routine that was as normal as possible and able to revolve around Andrew’s care.

Andrew and his family pose for a photo in front of a Christmas treeJudy explained that with two dependant children still at school, being able to drop them off and pick them up knowing that Andrew was at home safe in the caring hands of his wonderful care workers was a huge relief.

“The kids could come home from school and immediately see their dad and share their day with him. If our daughter wanted to cook a cake for Andrew – and sit up in his bed and eat it with him – she could. If our son wanted to watch a movie with his dad he was easily able to help Andrew get comfortable in his adjustable bed and settle in for show time. I know it isn’t everyone’s choice to stay at home but for Andrew he loved being surrounded by family and friends.

“The people we met on Andrew’s journey were amazing. Loving staff and carers were such beautiful people. All the nurses were so loving, caring and dedicated; I can’t speak highly enough of everyone’s compassion and respect.

“Their assistance and advice about hiring equipment was very much appreciated. I didn’t realise how fortunate we were to access the funding and with it now gone, I count us among the lucky ones to have been able to make Andrew’s wish to be at home possible.

The support was just so incredible and it meant so much to Andrew to be at home for the rest of his life. I know he too would have been ever so grateful.”

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