FONDLY REMEMBERED: Leisa Martin with granddaughter Summer McKelvey before her passing.
FONDLY REMEMBERED: Leisa Martin with granddaughter Summer McKelvey before her passing. Teilah McKelvey

Charity afternoon tea fulfils a daughter's final promise

EVERY second that ticked by on the clock in Warwick Hospital was a loud reminder of time slipping away for bowel-cancer sufferer and beloved mother-of-two, Leisa Martin.

Her daughter, Teilah McKelvey, resented that clock almost as much as she did the poor palliative care facilities on the ward.

As the family took turns watching over Mrs Martin's final days, they were struck by how difficult it was to stay close to their loved one through her last moments.

"There's not much space for the family when you're going through that sort of thing," Mrs McKelvey said.

"Physically, it's hard to get near them.

"And it makes the experience harder to go through when there's no private space for the family to process and grieve."

The Warwick Hospital staff tried their best to accommodate the family and even went so far as to bring in recliner chairs to the waiting room to help them sleep.

But because Mrs Martin's disease was so fast-moving, options were minimal.

"There's a place in Toowoomba for palliative care but if change happens quickly you just can't get there in time," she said.

"Then you're stuck in a dated hospital that's under resourced."

After Mrs Martin passed in September of last year, the family resolved that they would do whatever they could to make sure nobody else had to suffer through the death of a loved one in those conditions.

"Watching mum pass away up at the hospital was a hard experience to go through," Mrs McKelvey said.

"We want to work with Queensland Health to see what we can do."

For two years prior to her hospitalisation, Mrs Martin worked with her daughter on a fundraiser called Nanny's Afternoon Tea that supported Australia's Biggest Afternoon Tea and its cancer research efforts.

Mrs McKelvey promised her mother she would "keep going and do the afternoon tea" after she passed.

"Mum liked that we all got together for a common cause," she said.

This year, however, that cause will be different.

Together with her father, William Martin, and the support of her mother's friends, Mrs McKelvey aims to raise funds for palliative care in rural areas.

Additions such as a dedicated palliative care ward and "cuddle beds" would give families the space to connect with loved ones as they pass.

Similar measures have only recently been introduced in metro areas, where the reception has been overwhelming positive.

But such improvements would be expensive, with each "cuddle bed" costing upwards of $10,000.

"We'll have to start with small differences," Mrs McKelvey said.

"Mum raised me to believe that if there's anything you can do to make a change, you should do it."

This year's Nanny's Afternoon Tea will be held at the Freestone Community Hall and tickets are $35, with all proceeds going towards Queensland Health.

Mr Martin will step up to cater in his wife's stead, while her friends have helped to organise a raffle and get donations.

Mrs McKlevey hopes the entire community will turn out for the event on Sunday, June 9 at 1pm.

"We want everyone to feel welcome to come along," she said.

"We want the community to come together for a light hearted afternoon to raise some money and enjoy each other's company."

"Even if we only get enough money to change that clock, I'll be happy."

A Darling Downs Public Health spokesman said the Warwick Hospital was committed to accommodating the wishes of patients and their families with special touches such as "homely" furnishings and direct entry to the ward.

The spokesman said the configuration of the Warwick Hospital palliative care rooms did not currently allow for the safe installation of a "cuddle bed".

For more information search Nanny's Afternoon Tea on Facebook.



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