Monica McTague describes herself as a fighter. The Rotorua woman has a terminal heart condition and has been told she could die at any moment, but surrounded by family, she continues to get up and see another day.
Monica suffers from a range of illnesses but her primary condition is Congestive Heart Failure. She takes pride of place in her special chair in the middle of the family’s lounge. She has oxygen tubes hooked up to her nose and relies on the assistance of a walking frame.
She is surrounded by family in every sense of the word. Every wall of the lounge is filled with family photographs and family members come and go from the busy household.
It’s not just relatives she is classing as family; it is the team at Rotorua Hospice.
Monica has been in Rotorua for just over a year and is under the care of the local Hospice team, she was previously in Auckland with her niece Barbara, who is also her caregiver. Barbara gave up work to look after Monica but the increasing cost of living in Auckland prompted a move to Rotorua to be closer to family.
Monica says she hasn’t always been sick, and when she was younger she was healthy and had four children. Her terminal diagnosis came about seven years ago.
“I’ve had a hard road,” she says. “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.”
Monica isn’t a huge talker, letting her sister Bernadette and niece Barbara fill in the gaps.
“It’s been tough,” Bernadette says. “We’ve been told she could go at any minute. We experienced it when we were in Auckland, she should have passed twice, but she found the energy to keep on fighting. So we just take things one day at a time.”
Bernadette says the family would be lost without the help they receive from Hospice.
“They are just awesome. They are wonderful; they come in with huge smiles and know how to cheer Monica up when she is having a down day. But is it not just Monica, they support us too. They have become an extension of our family.”
Monica is housebound and the Hospice team regularly visit her at home. They change dressings and organise doctors visits.
“It is hard to describe everything they do,” Bernadette says. “They are just angels. They look after so many people.”
Monica passed away on 6th January 2019
Words by Anita Moran