Inseparable until the end: Husband comforts wife during her final moments at Blacktown Hospital
They shared a lifetime of memories together, raised two children, became grandparents and were married a remarkable 54 years.
Richard Barr, a patient of Blacktown Hospital, was relocated from the cardiac ward to join his wife Lorraine Barr in the cancer services and renal ward for her final moments.
They held hands as Lorraine, comforted by her husband and family, passed away on 28 May.
Lorraine’s daughter Karen Vella, a domestic violence specialist and social worker, shared her gratitude and appreciation for the care and kindness shown with fulfilling her mother’s last requests.
“Both of my parents were in Blacktown Hospital at the same time. Mum was being treated for complications with her cancer while dad was recovering from a heart condition,” Karen said.
Lorraine’s was first taken to the Blacktown Hospital Emergency Department when her health deteriorated rapidly and she was seen by palliative care registrar Dr Timothy Chow and staff specialist Dr Jacob Kwak.
Palliative care registrar Dr Timothy Chow was thankful for the family’s acknowledgment of the dignity and respect shown to Lorraine.
“Palliative care is to make sure the family is cared for as well as the patient,” Dr Chow said.
“This is the first time I’ve arranged for two patients to be together in the same hospital at the same time,” Dr Chow said.
Shortly after Lorraine was admitted to hospital, Karen was told that her mother may not make it through the night.
“These doctors were so professional, gentle and did everything with dignity and understanding. I felt like God put them in front of me to help my mum,” Karen said.
Karen was unable to leave her mother’s side and asked both Dr Chow and Dr Kwak to visit her dad in the ward and inform him of this devastating news.
The medical and nursing staff arranged for Richard to be relocated to join Lorraine Blacktown Hospital’s C71 cancer services and renal ward which houses palliative and cancer patients – along with his belongings and medications to follow.
The beds were placed side-by-side and staff moved out all of the furniture from the room so Lorraine and Richard could be together.
“There are not enough words in my heart to thank the staff for the dignity and compassion they showed my parents,” their daughter Karen said.
“When you’re confronted with life and death and horrible situations these doctors and nurses do their job led by their hearts.
“All the staff gave my mother a peaceful, respectful dignified passing that made her last moments the best they could possibly be.”
Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals general manager Ned Katrib praised the nursing and medical teams for going above and beyond their normal duties to facilitate this move.
“I applaud the staff for the way they dealt with this situation and put the needs of patients first,” Ned said.
This is just one example of the culture at Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals.”
“There’s no easy way to say goodbye and the staff opened their hearts and showed empathy and true love,” Karen added of the staff and their efforts.
Karen acknowledges the nursing and medical teams who went above and beyond to accommodate her family wishes including after-hours nurse manager Paul Baddock, oncology team leader Shobna Sen and cardiology team leader Sarah Gerard and oncology registered nurse Maryann Tinyow-Woodman.