Mercy Hospice 'a haven of peace'

Some people think Mercy Hospice is just a place where sick people go to die. But terminally ill patient Jo Walsh sees it as a haven.

The Mt Albert resident was told 18-months ago that the breast cancer she had beaten in 2006 had returned and spread throughout her body.

Mrs Walsh was unaware of the hospice until a visiting friend saw that she wasn't doing so well and suggested she needed some help. However her fear of hospitals held her back.

"Initially I said no. I knew I was terminally ill. I knew there was no cure, but the term ‘hospice' at the time meant to me The End," the mother-of-two says.

She resisted going for three months while hospice nurses visited her to check up and help with medications.

"They never gave up. Eventually one of them convinced me to go into Opening Doors [a day stay programme] and one of the nurses suggested I look upstairs.

"There was something about it that was so peaceful. When I was shown into one of the rooms there was no way I could say it wasn't for me. It just seemed to scream out, ‘come here - you need it'."

There are three categories of admission into the In-Patient Unit at Mercy Hospice ranging from a few days of respite care through to care for the final days of life.

Mrs Walsh was admitted into the second category where someone could help monitor her medication, as well as treating her spiritual, emotional and physical needs to make her life more tolerable.

"When they say they are the ‘cloak of mercy', that's what it felt like," she says.

"I could just feel this sense of peace for the first time in my recent illness."

Mrs Walsh returned home to her family after 14 days but her time at Mercy Hospice is firmly imprinted on her mind.

"You come out nearly yourself again and that's what you want," Mrs Walsh says.

"Even though you know you're not going to get better, and sometimes that's frightening, it's good to know there is a place to go."

A spokesman for the hospice says fear is a common feeling when patients and families are first admitted to Mercy Hospice in Ponsonby.

"One of the myths we are hoping to break is we aren't just a building where people come to die. We offer symptom and pain management for patients and respite care for families."

Excerpt from an original story in the Central Leader newspaper. Click below to read the full story.