Palliative Care at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre (ONJ Centre) becomes a familiar place for many as their loved ones spend their final days in the warm and compassionate care of the Palliative Care Team. Vince Vernucci spent two weeks here before he died, and now his niece Elizabeth is determined to help others during their stay on this special ward.
“Zio Vince was special to so many people, he was a gentle, kind, compassionate soul. He never complained about the pain he was going through. And he spoke about his family with such love, pride and happiness,” says Elizabeth about her uncle.
That love for family and helping others is what drives this remarkable young woman. At 22, Elizabeth has a degree in psychology and forensic science, and is currently studying for a post-graduate qualification in counselling. Already very busy, Elizabeth was so moved by her uncle’s experience in Palliative Care that she wanted to do something extra to help families spend precious and meaningful time with loved ones.
“Seeing first-hand how the Palliative Care ward operates and assists families whose loved ones are about to die is eye-opening,” she says. “They give comfort and dignity to those about to pass. They help the families prepare for the inevitable with such delicacy and compassion.”
Elizabeth is currently raising funds for a bariatric bed for the Palliative Care ward. An oversized hospital bed, the bariatric bed allows family members to have a cuddle with their loved one, giving comfort to all in a time of great sadness and loss.
Nurse Unit Manager of the Palliative Care Ward, Hilary Hodgson, says this bed will help patients feel loved and physically close to their families in a time that is often very lonely and sad.
“Many of our families talk about how special the moments are when they can have physical contact with their loved one. These are moments they cherish forever. “
Shaving her very long hair in a front of a vibrant community at Preston Market, Elizabeth raised more than $10,000 which she has donated to the ONJ Centre.
“Having the opportunity to collaborate with the Palliative Care ward warms my heart and wills me to do more,” she says.
“Even though I wasn’t able to help my late Zio Vince, I hope to give others comfort and dignity in their last moments, including being able to sleep with their loved one and snug up to them in their last moments in the bariatric bed.”
This week is Palliative Care Week, and we recognise the exceptional care our Palliative Care team give every day to people and their families like Vince and Elizabeth.
If you are inspired by Elizabeth, you too can make a donation to ONJ Cancer Centre. Thank you.