Alice talks about her years in palliative care
Alice Every is a patient support advisor working with the Samoa Cancer Society (S.C.S.), and has been on a 12-month assignment with the Australian Volunteers for International Development (A.V.I.).
In her last weeks with the Society, she took time out of her busy schedule to share her experiences with the Samoa Observer.
Alice arrived in Samoa last year to join outreach nurse Fuamatala Tofilua in her work tending to patients with cancer at various stages of the disease.
A palliative care nurse by profession, her work has been to not only support Fuamatala in her work, but to also develop the palliative care work of the Cancer Society and the greater health sector.
But Alice said compared to her experiences in Australia, families in Samoa are incredibly caring of their loved ones, which makes palliative care much easier in some regards.
“The thing that I have been overwhelmed by, that perhaps I wasn’t expecting was the way Samoan people care for each other, and that is something that can often be a bit lacking in Australia.
“It’s a big issue, having patients not having a family member who will care for them at home, and them living on their own and not having anyone to look after them,” she said.
But in Samoa, multiple family members will step up to full time care, without question.
“It is done with such care, and so effortlessly, it’s not seen as a burden or even questioned that they would do that. They just expect it of themselves and of each other to provide that care.”
Alice and Fuamatala travel far and wide across Samoa to visit patients at home and ensure they take their medication, and are connected to the health sector at large by helping them get to appointments or consult with different doctors.
“I’ve had some adventures,” said Alice.
“We visited a wee boy whose house was up where you couldn’t drive to, so we climbed this mountain to get to him, we took a small boat to Manono to visit a patient,” she said.
Caring for children at the end of their life was a challenge on its own for Alice. But a strong team at the Cancer Society meant she never cried alone, she said.
“Seeing people dying from cancers that, if they lived in other countries that had more access to treatment or more resources, they possibly wouldn’t have died of those cancers, that’s probably been the thing I have found most distressing,” Alice said.
“But the work the Samoa Cancer Society is doing is incredible and well beyond my expectation of a small N.G.O. of a small Pacific country to be providing.”
She said the choice to take on a palliative care nurse shows how progressive the health sector and the society are, and understands S.C.S. has applied to A.V.I. for another nurse when Alice leaves next week.
The Australian Volunteers for International Development programme works to match Australians and their skills with organisations in nearly 30 countries to help them deliver their objectives, and is funded by the Australian department of foreign affairs and trade and AusAID.