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Byron Shire
April 22, 2024

Seeking support for end-of-life choices

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Kate McKeown and her mother Sally Del Perugia at Wedgetail Retreat. Photo supplied.
Kate McKeown and her mother Sally Del Perugia at Wedgetail Retreat. Photo supplied.

Caring for people who are dying and giving them the a chance to conclude their time here with family and friends in an environment of care and understanding was the dream that lead to establishing Tweed Palliative Support in 1998 and eventually the purpose built Wedgetail Retreat: Northern Rivers Community Hospice that opened in 2015.

Between the two services they help around 500 people a year in the northern rivers region both with in-home palliative support and end-of-life care at the community hospice, Wedgetail Retreat.

Highlighting the important role that the service provides Kate McKeown and her mother Sally Del Perugia have spoken about their experience of being in end-of-life care at the retreat. Sally has metastatic endometrial serous – a painful, life-threatening illness. Her carer at home could not manage and her pain levels had become ‘too difficult’.

‘I was so uncomfortable at home, my pain levels were out of control,’ said Sally.

‘As soon as I came to Wedgetail Retreat I relaxed, my doctor visits me here and it is such a beautiful place. The nurses always have a smile and the visit by the Therapy Horse was such a delightful surprise.’

Sally’s daughter Kate has been with her mother at the retreat but now needs to return to the United States to attend to her business and nine-year-old daughter – splitting her time between both countries.

‘I have been by mum’s side for several weeks and the level of commitment from the nursing staff is deeply touching. The trained palliative volunteers are exceptional, even the cooks. They treat us and everyone who come to the

hospice like treasured family and don’t hesitate to go the extra mile,’ said Kate.


‘I have witnessed first-hand how expensive syringe drivers – that help to control pain, portable oxygen concentrators – that help depleting blood oxygen levels rise and other medical equipment brings great relief to those who are dying. They are the only organisation in the region that also loan medical equipment free to palliative clients at home.’

Sally and Kate are hoping that their story will help raise awareness of the exceptional work that Wedgetail Retreat and the in-home palliative care in the community provide.

Providing 24/7 care with registered nurses at the retreat costs $500,000 with the costs of food, maintenance and hospital equipment on top with no public health funding.

‘We have clients referred to us from GPs and hospitals throughout the region as well as people being able to refer themselves,’ said project manager, Liza Nagy.

The service provides medical equipment, carer relief, daily living assistance, transport to medical appointments and counselling among other supports that are provided by their trained volunteer base.

‘I want people to know how committed this organisation is and how much they need business and community help to raise funds,’ said Sally.

’24/7 nursing care doesn’t come cheap and to stay, they only ask for unrestricted donations, if you ca afford it. Although they work with local hospitals, they do not receive any funding from NSW Health.’

Kate is soon flying back to the US and feels ‘totally reassured that mum is being cared for at Wedgetail Retreat while I am

away. The dedicated nurses have become like sisters to me and I know mum is receiving exceptional professional, loving care. The money that you donate will go directly to helping people in the Northern Rivers and Gold Coast receive comfort and care in their last days and precious memories for families.’

Wedgetail Retreat is the only independent community hospice in NSW. It is proudly part of award-winning not-for-profit Tweed Palliative Support. You can donate online here or call their office on (02) 6672 8459 for other donation payment options.

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