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Patients remind us how we make a difference

This year Waikato District Health Board will join the international celebrations of Patient Experience Week. The week provides us with an opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on the challenges faced by our patients and service users. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate the many ways – no matter how small – that staff make a difference to a patient or service user’s experience.

Janenne Sloan, Waikato breast cancer patient, shares her story about how staff’s kindness made the difference.
Janenne Sloan shares her story about beating breast cancer.

Janenne Sloan shares her story about beating breast cancer.

I didn’t want to be that chick with cancer but the day of my 35th birthday I became that chick. It was the staff though that made me realise I could become “that chick that HAD cancer,” I just needed to get through the next 10 months.

I had 5 months of chemo, several surgeries and radiation. What always struck me were the staff. Especially the nurses who work in chemo day stay. They are always so bright despite where they work.They make a really horrible experience bearable, so much so that on my last day of treatment I baked them cupcakes. And the thing is, I wouldn’t have been the first to do that, or the last.

I remember this one night where I was so unwell after surgery – I had pain that was overwhelming – Ellis my nurse held my hand and told me it was going to be ok. Then Tracy, a health care assistant on my ward came in and sat with me. She sat with me rubbing my lower back and talking me through the pain for what felt like hours. In that moment though I was so vulnerable and they made sure I was never alone.

It is moments like these – and there are several through my whole experience across multiple services – that made me feel like I was more than a number on a piece of paper and my family were treated more than just some people around my bed. It really was the human connections that counted.

Gail Martin, Waikato surgery patient, has used Waikato DHB services across the district in many settings and has nothing but praise for our staff.
Gail Martin talking about her experience with Waikato Hospital, Thames Hospital and now our outpatients and community teams.

Gail Martin talking about her experience with Waikato Hospital, Thames Hospital and now our outpatients and community teams.

I just had a prickly feeling in my toe to start with and eventually the pain become so bad I couldn’t cope with it. We tried a few different things and then I had a surgery which had complications and the pain became overwhelming.

In the end I said to the doctors just take my leg off. Taking my leg was going to be better than putting up with the pain. I thought it would be easy from there, I would get the prosthesis and we would be done but it’s not that simple.

I have at least two years of physio to do before I can walk unaided with the prosthesis but the people at the artificial limbs centre and all the physios are just amazing. It’s a hard process but they keep you focused and motivated. They make you see what is possible and help you do the hard work.

Sometimes when I go into the artificial limbs centre I see people in the same situation as me but already walking and it reminds me what we have to do.

The staff have just always been so kind to us, we can’t complain because every time we have needed them they have been there – through the whole process of deciding to take the leg off, to afterwards with the rehab and even getting me my chair.

Norm Bradley, Waikato rural patient, has relied on the Taumarunui district health nurses, he tells his incredible story.

Norm Bradley shares his story about using the district nurses for the last thirty years.

I’ve got a bad ulcer on my leg, but I have had trouble with my legs for over 30 years. The district nurses here at Taumarunui Hospital have been involved in my life for 25 years. I have watched some retire and new ones start – but I have been lucky that they have always been here because otherwise I don’t know what would have happened to my legs.

A man that I have the greatest respect for is Chris Holdaway from Waikato Hospital – he healed my left leg. The nurses have always treated my family with great respect. They have taught my daughters how to dress my wounds so I didn’t have to come up here every day and have visited me at home several times. They always care for me with great respect.

But when my wife died, the nurses helped us care for her at home. It was a very special time for us, we had 44 years together and to have that time at home with her and my daughters was fantastic. They made sure she was comfortable and in the last week of her life the nurses came every day to check in on her and us. To get that kind of care, when you need it was very special. People here just go out of their way to make us comfortable and in a small community that really counts. It is a tenderness you never forget.

Paul Watt, Waikato surgical patient, was a patient for nearly nine months at Waikato Hospital and in that time he said staff became like family.

Paul Watt spent 9 months with Waikato Hospital, he shares his story.

I came into Waikato Hospital through a trauma and the first thing I remember is waking up in ICU with a doctor shouting at me trying to bring me out of the coma. It was all very hazy for a few weeks. I spent more than nine months here and 18 months later I still have an open wound on my stomach.

In that time I began to build a relationship with staff. Carly on ward M2 took my care on personally. She became an expert at dressing my wounds and she was always so friendly. Most of the stuff she did was above and beyond what her job would be. She would come in and put up sayings on the wall and put jokes up around my room. When I was getting ready to go home she put up all these signs saying “Paul’s leaving day”. I really felt like I had become part of the ward family.

The specialist team helped me more than just making sure my injuries were healing. One of the administrators to the specialist surgeon took my case up with ACC for me. Initially they wouldn’t cover my wages or anything and she eventually appealed the case and got me back paid. She went way above and beyond and that made such a difference to me being able to focus on healing.

It really just came down to the staff making this a home for nine months, and making me feel part of the family.

Betty Shepherd, Waikato oncology patient, explains how continuity of staff and their attitudes have made a difference to her care.

Nine years ago I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and over that period of time I have had treatments of radiation and chemotherapy to try and keep the disease at bay.

Betty Shepherd at Waikato Hosptial

Betty Shepherd at Waikato Hosptial

Unfortunately the options were running out and the decision was made by my oncologist Dr Marion Kuper and her team for me to have a Stem Cell Transplant early this year.  This was a procedure not to be decided upon lightly but my faith and confidence in Marion, which had built up over the nine years we have been together, made the decision to go down this path a relatively easy one.  I have total trust and respect in her, she is in a very difficult field and to produce the kind of vibrancy she delivers to her patients on a regular basis shows total dedication to the job.


During my three weeks in hospital I was introduced to the incredible team at Ward 5 and I can only say I was so privileged to be under the care of such a specialist group of Doctors, nurses and support staff. In a nutshell, they were absolutely amazing.

The transplant was no walk in the park and at times I wondered how much more they could throw at the human body, needless to say the answer is quite a lot! I felt pretty low at times but the empathy and professionalism I received while undertaking this treatment from this highly qualified team got me through.

I count myself fortunate, I am one of the lucky ones who had this option of treatment, I am looking forward to bouncing back into life head on once my recovery is complete.

All I can advise is, if you are faced with this decision, have the faith and courage and confidence to go ahead. We are so very lucky to have the facility and expertise available at Waikato Hospital, they are simply up there with the best.

Karen McPake, mental health and addictions client, shares her incredible story for Patient Experience Week 2016. She describes how staff helped her cope.

“I had a few traumatic experiences that led me to abuse drugs as my coping mechanism. At this stage, though, I had given birth to a daughter, and the main reason I wanted to seek help was because I desperately wanted to be a good mother.

Karen McPake mental health and addictions client shares her incredible story for Patient Experience Week 2016

Karen McPake mental health and addictions client shares her incredible story for Patient Experience Week 2016

The community I was part of used the methadone programme and there was a lot of misinformation about it. I decided within myself I was going to use the programme to get clean. I set a goal to be off the programme within six years – I never wanted to be on it for life.

It took nine years, but as of December 31, 2015, I have been more than 90 days ‘clean and serene’.

In this time I learned a lot about coping mechanisms. I had a breakthrough moment with Sue, one of Waikato District Health Board’s case workers – she started to recognise in me the issues that I was going through, the particular type of help I needed, and she picked up on the little things that made me know she was listening.

Having the same people consistently part of my care was really valuable. It took a lot for me to open up about what was going on, and not moving from one person to another meant counsellors and case workers could break down those fronts and truly listen to me. Also when staff knew me, and my struggles, they could hear the smallest thing that I would say. They helped me start to let go of my past and deal with more than just drug addiction.

I am now a great mum, with a great relationship with my daughter. She is the driving force for me to constantly better myself.”

Patient Experience Week will run from Monday 25 April to Friday 29 April. Waikato DHB is encouraging patients and staff to tell us either what made a difference to their care or how staff make a difference to patient’s care. You can follow all the stories on Instagram and Facebook by using #yourDHByourstory.



Check out how patient experience week has unfolded with staff and patients:


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