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Hospice heroes reunited

Sixteen years ago, two nurses worked the first ever shift at Marlborough’s Hospice.

Kerri Hale and Michele Devereux-Austin met in November 2003 and for four years helped care for patients and their families.

But when a nasty leg fracture meant Michele had to leave, the pair lost touch.

Now they have been reunited as retired nurse Michele returns to the Blenheim-based hospice as a volunteer, just in time for the start of Hospice Awareness Week.

“We’ve come full circle,” she says.

Michele, from Blenheim, graduated as a registered nurse in 2000 and started her career at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

But palliative care was always the area she was most interested in, she says.

“I spent a lot of my working life as a health carer in hospitals in Auckland as well as a St Joseph’s Mercy Hospice,

“We moved to Blenheim as my husband is involved with Omaka and then I saw the job at the hospice advertised – it was meant to be.”

An early photo of the hospice team. Photo: Supplied.

Michele says that volunteers have a big role to play in the smooth running of hospice, not just at the hub itself but in the wider community.

“I really don’t mind what I do, I just want to help,” she says.

“I like people and I make a mean omelette.”

For clinical nurse specialist Kerri, the hospice is also a special place.

“It has a real sense of community and it’s a place where people have connected.

“Death is a natural part of life, that’s our philosophy.

“People come to us feeling vulnerable, patients get comfort from us and that’s crucial so they can see that it’s okay and we can get through it.

“This is not a sad place to work, there’s always laughter,” she says.

Some of the hospice team in the early days of the organisation. Photo: Supplied.

The six-roomed hospice, community care team and other vital volunteers care for an average of 100 patients a month across the region.

From preparing breakfast, looking after the gardens, taking on a shift at the hospice’s Redwoodtown shop or writing biographies, Volunteers are always kept busy.

While there are between 250 to 300 volunteers on the books, not all are actively involved.

“For the 16 years I’ve been working here, the world has really opened up.

“We’ve done ballet dancing, learned te reo, sold raffle tickets and helped organise weddings.

‘It’s all about the holistic approach,” says Kerri.

Hospice Awareness Week runs from 13 May to 19 May.

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