There were 4 generations of this family, living together in a very small two bedroom fibro dwelling. This is really Marg’s story. Marg was the carer.
My first contact with the family was a Sunday afternoon after a call from Marg. I went immediately. Her daughter Sally lay dying in terrible pain. There were no palliative care medications in the house, as she had not been linked to the palliative care service. I did what I could to get some morphine to her for pain relief and she died the next day. She was thirty-nine years old. Sally had been ill for a year, dying of heart failure. Marg was also nursing her husband Ken, bed bound from a series of devastating strokes that left him totally incapacitated. Before the last stroke he had said to Marg, ‘You’ll have to take care of Sally now’.
My next call from Marg was to tell me that Ken looked now like he was dying. I linked earlier this time to get the Dying at Home Program up and running for the family. This was a wonderful, yet suffering family, having survived through many of life’s disasters, but quite determined and sure they could do whatever it took.
Family and neighbours held a Gathering and rallied together despite their problems, to give of their best to enable Ken, (Dad, as he was called by all), to stay at home. They took on the jobs needed to keep this family going, everything including cooking, sitting and reading to Ken, organising the children, feeding, providing massage for Ken to relieve his cramps and shopping for food. One grandson Ben, who was very close to Ken, was so inspired by the experience, was later to apply to study nursing, wanting to specialise in palliative care. Marg took on the full care of Ken and they slept side by side to the very end.
Ken was a truck driver in his working years before the strokes. He drove the long hauls from Melbourne to Darwin in Australia. thousands of miles.
As Ken was breathing his last breaths, Marg released him saying, ‘Dad, your bag’s packed, the trucks ready, it is time to go’. Ken smiled at her and all his family gathered at his bedside and breathed his last after many restless nights. It’s hard for truck drivers to let go the steering wheel of life.
Sally died 7 months before Ken. The family felt strongly that Dad would be there in heaven to look after Sally again.
Life went on in this home the better for these experiences. Marg shared with me ’I can still hear him breathing next to me in the night’.