I have been a volunteer for Rotorua Community Hospice for over twenty years. I first started when a friend said they needed help answering phones at the cottage (the previous Hospice building). One day, I suggested hosting a garage sale as we had lots of items donated. We held two garage sales within a month at the race course. After that, the idea for a Rotorua Hospice shop was born and… here I am.
My husband, Ray, died in 2011 from stomach cancer. I still remember the moment the doctor, looked at Ray as he leaned over for something and suggested he go to hospital for some check ups. We weren’t even at the Doctor for that reason. They found tumours in his stomach. It was so unexpected.
We had a great life together. Ray always wanted to be a radio DJ. He joined a local volunteer station and I answered the phones! We managed hotels and started at the Princess Gate in Rotorua – it’s astonishing to see how much that place has changed. We would spend time at Pukehina beach. Ray loved fishing!
Eventually, Ray started going downhill. Hospice started coming 3 – 4 times per week. Ray accepted it and got to really love the nurses. He would wink at them as they came in the door. He was a flirt. He really was. He loved them coming; it was a break in his day. He’d laugh and talk with them. He never appeared to be suffering – that’s the main thing.
When they (Hospice nurses) came into the house, we never felt they were in a hurry to get away. Friends came but a lot of people are embarrassed at the thought of someone being so sick. The nurses were good at discussing problems – as small as they may seem, the nurses always had an answer.
Our corgi, Travis jumped up on the couch every morning to say hi to Ray. The morning Ray died, Travis walked right past him and out the door. He didn’t come to say hello.
I was already involved with Hospice when Ray was diagnosed and I think it helped. He already knew people involved so Hospice wasn’t a strange word. I suppose it gave him confidence they would look after him.
Don’t ever be frightened to ring Hospice and get support. They are wonderful. It’s not necessarily the end – they can help. The thing is when you’re a patient or a friend of a patient you don’t know how to deal with it. They do. That’s why I would do anything for Hospice.
Rest in peace Ray Hedgeman 24/2/1934 – 18/10/2011