By Kevin O’farrell
Samantha O’Farrell passed away on July 16 at the Katie Rose Cottage Hospice. She had been suffering wth leukaemia for two and a half years.
I was with Sam over the past two years, witnessing the struggles that she endured battling this terrible disease.
In early June, she entered Katie Rose with the realisation that despite the incredible efforts of the hospital and their staff, she was going to die.
During the following weeks, she and I were to experience the most incredible care that Katie Rose provides to all that enter through their doors.
There are not enough words that can fully give expression to the care that the hospice provided to Samantha. Each one of the staff had their own endearing names for her; Sam, My Beautiful, Sammy, Darling , Samantha – all of them conveyed with genuine love and affection.
The staff, both professional and voluntary, did all that they could to ensure that in her final weeks she lived life to the fullest, as much as her body would allow, and without pain.
Sam confounded the experts and throughout her stay continued to swim and go for long walks, all of which was facilitated by the staff. They provided us with a wheelchair and portable means for carrying her medication. Most of all, they provided encouragement for her to make the best use of her remaining time.
Towards her final days, Samantha was unable to get out of bed. During those days the staff would bathe her, ( they called it a Lavender Bath) and would gently massage her, all the time talking to her soothingly even when she was in a semi coma or unconscious state.
They checked on her constantly to make sure that all her needs were being attended to and that she was never in pain. And they spent time with her. The carers, nurses, doctor and other members of the staff would often come to the room, listen and talk with her; discuss the pictures of family and friends displayed on her walls. They also shared time with me.
Her room overlooked the pool and the incredible gardens that are a feature in the grounds of the hospice. Often the volunteer gardeners would tap on her bedroom window to say hello.
The gardens, as are other parts of the hospice, developed and maintained by an army of volunteers. Pools crossed by tiny bridges, gravel paths, stone and wooden fixtures, flowering shrubs all add to the tranquility and gentleness that is typical of the atmosphere of Katie Rose.
Samantha was fortunate to have many friends who were encouraged and welcomed by the hospice staff. When Samantha was able to, they would accompany her on short walks in the gardens. The serenity was shared and enjoyed by all of the group.
Walking in the Japanese gardens or in the hospice itself, often we would encounter constant smiles and kind words from volunteers and the nursing and administrative staff, all evident of the incredible loving culture that runs throughout the facility.
And the staff took care of me as well. They comforted me as more and more the realisation became evident that Sam’s days were drawing to an end. They offered me kindness and understanding and of course, a ‘cuppa,’ a wonderful accompaniment to their sympathetic words.
Katie Rose offers a culture that embraces all that is best in the human condition – a culture that reflects love, kindness and respect for those that are about to pass on. It is staffed by the most incredible people – all of whom are there because they are driven by a desire to give to those less fortunate.
“It is a privilege being here,” is often the refrain expressed by the professional and volunteer staff alike.
Katie Rose is a wonderful example of what can be done to ease the pain of both the person that is dying, as well as supporting the family and friends of that person. Although only 20 per cent funding is given to it by the government; the raising of funds and the volunteering of caring people make it possible for it to exist. It also presents a template that one would like to see replicated by other communities.
We should all be so fortunate to end our days with the love and dignity that such a place as Katie Rose provides.
I will be forever grateful on behalf of Samantha and myself for all that they provided as our journey together came to an end.
Many thanks to all of you who cared for us.
In loving memory.