Alison Craig – Belfast

I’m Alison Craig, I’m an Occupational Therapist in the Macmillan Unit in Antrim. I suppose people come into the unit for all sorts of reasons so they can come in for end of life care but they also come in to get symptoms sorted and maybe to get back home to get on with managing things so I tend to look more at the practical everyday things so I’d be looking at maybe the things they want to do every day about the house, managing in their life and what sort of problems they have with that. What makes it difficult and can we make those things it easier for them.

One of my favourite stories from time working in the unit would have been about a young woman that came into us for a few weeks. She had a respiratory condition and she had other problems with her heart with her joints so she had problems with her breathing and some problems with pain so she came into the unit to get those things sorted or managed a bit better. She had a young child as well so there was a lot of emotional support and practical support as well for that as well. When she came into the unit, I had asked her about what was important to her, what would she like to be able to manage and she had mentioned to me that she had wanted to be able to shower herself, she wanted not to have carers at home if she could so she agreed that I could help with the shower the next day. So the next day while we were managing the shower I noticed that she had a lot of tattoos and that turned into a whole conversation about the tattoos and why and all the rest of it and she mentioned that the one thing she would love would have been a tattoo of the picture of her child and she wanted it on the chest, so she felt that would give her peace because he would always be with her. So when I came out from finishing with the shower that started a whole team talk about tattoos and someone had recommended there was a local guy Stephan Getty who was well known and so I gave him a wee ring and he said yes he would love to do it and he would do it for free and to bring her up which sounded very simple until we realised his studio was on the first floor and this woman had problems with her breathing and pain and hadn’t done stairs in years so it kinda started another rehab programme and the physio was involved in getting her doing the stairs and techniques for her breathing and the pharmacists and the doctors were looking at her pain management and a wee bit extra for the tattoo and for the stairs and she managed up the stairs, she got her tattoo, loved it and she felt that that was something was sorted to give her some peace. It was lovely that when she went home that it was something that gave her more peace of mind and she really loved it and I suppose that is something I really love about this job that you are doing things, they might be little things but they are meaning for people when they are living with these conditions.

I suppose for me, palliative care is about quality of life. People are living with these illnesses but it is about supporting them to get the best out of their life and to live fully with the condition that they have and its just looking at those little things that make life easier and allow people to do the things that are important to them.