IF IT had not been for Creswick doctor Claire Hepper, 19-year-old Shannon McKnight would never have realised her final wish – to die at home.
Shannon, a Mount Glasgow resident, had lived in hospitals for two years since being diagnosed with leukemia when she was 17.
When it became apparent the end was near, all Shannon wanted to do was be at home with her family.
Unfortunately, being in a remote location between Ballarat Hospice and Loddon Mallee Regional Palliative Care service areas, help after hours in the form of home visits was hard to get.
But thanks to Dr Hepper, from Creswick Medical Centre, who visited the family of her own accord at all hours of the night, Shannon was able to die in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by the people who loved her the most.
She died on March 3 this year, after only four days back at home.
Now, Dr Hepper and Shannon’s dad, Jeremy McKnight, are raising funds to supply every general practice in the region with a special kit they made up for Shannon. The kits contain a number of medicines, tools and information sheets to help people die at home in relative comfort.
They understand palliative care and hospice services are stretched thin after-hours in remote locations. So the kits, which they’ve named Shannon’s Packs, are their way of helping make the process of dying at home easier for others in the same situation.
Mr McKnight said when Shannon’s situation had become acute, Dr Hepper was on the scene before an ambulance to help. She showed Mr McKnight how to administer pain relief using the kit she’d made.
“Without that pack, we wouldn’t have been able to keep Shannon at home, and that’s all she wanted,” Mr McKnight said.
“The packs are expensive, but they’re a godsend. It was peace of mind for Shannon. She was scared beforehand because anything can happen and it can change in a second.”
Dr Hepper said the Shannon’s Packs would help families and their GPs through the palliative care process.
“If it’s the patient’s and the family’s wishes and they want to stay home, this pack helps in the critical time.”
Mr McKnight and Dr Hepper are aiming to raise money for 30 Shannon’s Packs, at a cost of $470 per pack, so that every “fringe” practice has one at their disposal.
Ballarat Hospice is taking donations for the packs.
To make a donation, visit www.ballarathospicecare.org.au/make-a-donation and write “Shannon’s Pack” so the proceeds are directed to the correct area.
A GoFundMe page has also been launched at www.gofundme.com/2825bdje