June Scales was raised at a High Country Station in Tekapo. Very much a hands-on,…
Shiree Smith was a wife, a mother, a beloved friend, a caring member of the local community and is also the namesake for a van that is now used to comfortably transport non-ambulant Nelson Tasman Hospice patients!
Shiree was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer 5 months before her death in 2016, at 45 years old. Shiree’s father had died in hospice care a few years earlier and unfortunately this meant that she was apprehensive about Hospice and thought of it as just a place people go to die. Her oncology team at Nelson Hospital really urged her to accept the support of Nelson Tasman Hospice and she started having visits to the hospice inpatient unit (then still in Manuka Street) to get accustomed to it and the service.
Steve Smith, Shiree’s husband, said that when Shiree finally accepted hospice care, about 1 month before she died
“Hospice immediately made everything easier – we just realised all that hospice does.”
She was set up at home by Nelson Tasman Hospice with a specialised bed and other equipment to ensure she was as comfortable as possible and received home visits from our specialist team. Steve remembers “Hospice made it possible for her to stay at home as long as possible and it was hard to “get angry” at the situation as everyone was so nice.”
Shiree lost the use of her legs in the last month of her life and had to be transported in wheelchair taxis, which the family found unreliable. The lift mechanism was scary & loud and due to the way that the vans were configured, there was nowhere for someone to sit beside her in the back of the van. Steve decided to order their own van to make her transport more comfortable. The new van had a smooth, quiet lift mechanism and a seat in the back next to where the wheelchair is parked but unfortunately, the van arrived too late for Shiree to ever ride in it.
Steve had the van christened “Shiree” and had custom plates fitted. He talked to “Uncle Les,” Shiree’s uncle, Les Lindbom, about an idea that he had and then approached us to offer the use of Shiree for other hospice patients and thus began this very special service. He says that without Les he wouldn’t have been able to offer the service, as he was away for work a lot.
We currently have three volunteer drivers available for Shiree and it is a wonderful service to be able to offer the patients and their families/whānau. Shiree is being used by one of our patients every week at the moment and in the past has been used for special outings as well as regular transport to appointments.
Sometimes a patient might have many stairs at their home or a wish to go to the beach for instance. Steve liaises with the fire brigade for those times when he needs help to carry a wheelchair, but he also has a whole network of friends who are available to call on should they be called away to an emergency.
Being able to offer this service, thanks to Steve and our compassionate community, is another way to help patients and their whanau.
“It’s nice to give something back when you’ve received so much. Shiree loved to help people and give back, so this was a way to celebrate her life and remember how she loved to help others.”