Compassion is defined as sympathy for the suffering for others which leads to a desire to help them. It is a keystone quality of all who are involved with the service of Helderberg Hospice and is the driving force behind the work of the nursing staff in particular. National Hospice Week which was celebrated from 4 – 11 May looked at building compassionate communities and providing an excellent opportunity for the community to meet the Hospice nursing sisters who care for the needs of patients and their families at what is probably the most challenging time of life – the end of life.
Sr Marguerite Pettipher works in the Gordon’s Bay and Sir Lowry’s Pass area, taking the special care of Helderberg Hospice to all who face the challenge of a life-threatening illness. She joined Helderberg Hospice as a Home Care nursing sister three years ago. She had recently returned from managing a home care system in the Middle East so was familiar with aspects of the work but not directly with Hospice care. However, she feels strongly that she is in the right place at the right time. “Walking that last path with a patient and their family is a privilege, but it is one that demands a great deal from the carer,” says Marguerite. “One gives a lot in this position; the work can make one sad and tired – but at the same time one gets a lot back!” After a long day caring for patients, Marguerite enjoys gardening or quilting as a way to restore her soul.
Sr Pettipher concedes that while she has fully come to terms with the fact that death and dying is a natural part of life, she does get affected when patients her age and younger die. It has brought home to her the reality of how short life can be, and has taught her to value the time she has and to take care of her own health and well-being. “It is not always easy to answer the questions my patients and their loved ones have, but I made it a rule to myself to always be honest and tell the truth. From my own experience of losing my late husband, I know what it is like to be kept in the dark. Even if it is painful and difficult, honesty (supported by empathy) is very important.”