A special milestone

Nursing care the Mary Potter way - where there is time to focus on what’s truly important.

Keith will always remember the exceptional and loving nursing care that he and Gary experienced in the Hospice - and where they celebrated together in the first same sex wedding to be held in the Hospice.

Gary & Keith with marriage certificate

Gary worked in aged care for 35 years. He was an enrolled nurse and an accomplished artist. He was a much-loved brother, uncle and good friend to so many who loved and respected him. Most significantly, he was the committed and loving partner of 38 years to Keith.

Towards the end of Gary’s cancer treatment in St Andrews, he decided not to continue with any further treatment apart from palliative care.  A nursing home was briefly discussed and Keith remembers how Gary immediately said: ‘What about Mary Potter?’

Keith recalled that: ‘Going through the front doors of the Hospice never felt like walking into a sterile hospital environment. There was something special about this place.  I think we all experienced genuine compassion, empathy and loving kindness.’

And for Gary, that love emanated from the heart of the Hospice – in the nurses’ exceptional care.

Keith told us: ‘Gary called them his “angels”. The nurses were just impeccable and my experience at the Hospice was quite unique. I was so thankful for nurses like Deirdre, Jacqui and Rachel, to name just a few. I recall when Deirdre felt I needed to be reassured or more informed about what was going on, she would always take the time. That meant a lot. I was never pushed aside.’

These wonderful nurses also spent extra time as wedding planners. Keith and Gary had been planning to marry, but when the doctors told Keith not to wait too long, the planning became urgent. Once Keith told the nurses that he had organised a celebrant, nurses Jacqui and Rachel sprang into action.

Keith said: 'The nurses made it all happen so quickly. It was a public holiday and everything was closed.  But they were amazing. Gary’s room was cleared and tables and chairs were brought in for our family and friends.  Platters of food and sparkling wines arrived. Our friend Josephine came to play the Hospice piano. There were balloons, flowers and a beautiful cake that the nurses were able to organise.  Muratti Cakes & Gateaux opened especially on a public holiday and provided the most stunning cake just for us! How incredible.'

With Gary and Keith’s loving family and close friends in attendance, the nurses and doctors watched on as this wonderful couple formalised their long and loving relationship.

‘We could feel the love in the room and there was genuine warmth and happiness from all the Hospice staff. Gary was on a real high all that day. We were so grateful for the organisational expertise of our wedding planners.’

Gary was also able to spend time with two of the Hospice massage therapists, Karen and Rose. No longer able to feel his legs, Gary benefited from having his arms and hands massaged, while a couple of facials calmed and relaxed him. For Keith too, the opportunity to have a massage was a little bit of time and space away from the heartache of what was going on. And the Hospice counsellor Sigourney, and the Pastoral Care staff, were always on hand for Keith to have a chat to – particularly at times when he felt overwhelmed and emotional: “To speak with someone who knows what you’re going through was wonderful. It was incredibly beneficial.”

Keith knows that the Hospice was the best place possible for Gary. ‘The doctors and nurses were able to monitor his pain and adjust medication as needed. I know that he was scared about dying and how I would cope, but again the Hospice staff were able to make things just that little bit easier. There were of course many emotional and hard times in the Hospice. But there were also some exceptional times within that room – happiness, humour and serendipity were never far away.

If he hadn’t gone there, we would have missed out on some incredibly special moments. It was the right place for Gary.’

Above all, Keith said he will never forget the extraordinary nursing care that Gary experienced. ‘The nurses were just exemplary. All the staff were compassionate, open, accepting, professional and caring individuals. They made the time in Mary Potter that much more bearable every day. Gary knew just how wonderful they really were. It speaks volumes about the Hospice.’