From left, palliative team nurse Norma Connolly, Drs. Stacey Erven, Deb Harrold, and Adam McClure, and (at far right) Katherine Craine, executive director of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, with the portable ultrasound machine donated to the hospital by the Gambrell family (to the right of the machine) David, Alex, Bill, Knowl, Sarah, Jake, and Hugh. The Gambrell family donated the machine in honour of their late wife, mother, and grandmother, Janet Gambrell. (Tamara de la Vega)
Losing a loved one is tough and watching them die even tougher.
In honour of Janet Gambrell, who passed away in her home supported by her family, as per her wishes, and by Huntsville’s palliative team, her family raised funds to provide the only piece of equipment that had been missing in her care – a portable ultrasound. It was their way of celebrating her life and her wish to give back to the community she loved.
Janet and Bill Gambrell spent much of their lives at their cottage in Lake of Bays. In 2019 they tore down the cottage and built their dream retirement home. They completed the project and took possession in December of 2019 but unfortunately, Janet passed away of bile duct cancer on January 14, 2021.
While she was ill, Janet made it known that she wanted to die in the home she built with her husband Bill, surrounded by family. The palliative team at Huntsville Hospital was able to help the family honour her wishes.
“We had no idea there was such a palliative team here. They just literally took control and everything you could possibly need arrived at the house including four doctors – Adam (McClure) who is our GP, he took control,” recalled Bill. He said there were also wonderful nurses, particularly Ashley who brought Bill a coffee every morning.
As Janet began to deteriorate, the intensity of the care increased. “If you needed them, they were there,” said Bill. He referred to the palliative team as “extremely powerful” and said “most people don’t even know they exist. They are amazing. It’s a team more people should know about. They’re a remarkable bunch.”
Janet’s children, Sarah and David, and their families moved into the house to be with her, help care for her, and help Bill accompany her through her end-of-life journey. Most of the care was done at home with the exception of ultrasound procedures that had to be done at the hospital.
Having to go to the hospital for ultrasounds was difficult and made Janet extremely tired, recalled Sarah Gambrell, who pulled her children from school and homeschooled them so they could be at the house with Janet.
When Janet died, the family asked that instead of flowers, people make donations to the Huntsville Hospital Foundation toward the purchase of a portable ultrasound machine to help others in the community.
“My three boys were exposed to the deterioration… all of the process of what was going on, so to understand the giving back of what we saw happen and the care that they saw my mom, their nana, receive, I think was such a powerful lesson for them, so we were really pleased to be able to do something bigger… she had a great community of friends and family who supported the cause, so we were able to do something that felt pretty significant in her honour,” said Sarah. “The timing was really unfortunate, but she got to spend that year in her dream home that she finally got to build.”
Huntsville has a multi-disciplinary palliative health team by the name of Hope Huntsville. “There are a couple of nurses and three physicians as part of the palliative care team and we function as a consultant team to support the primary caregivers in our community – whether that’s homecare nurses, PSWs (personal support workers), in-home care or family physicians and nurse practitioners doing family care,” explained palliative team lead Dr. Deb Harrold. “We’ve been here for 15 years as a team and well-integrated in our community care for people in the hospital or in the community or over at hospice.”
Harrold said the portable ultrasound will enable care providers to take the machine out into the community and to provide safe imaging for symptom management and palliative care. “It really does allow us to eliminate the need to come into the hospital setting for a procedure when we feel comfortable and safe and supported to do it at home,” she said.
Find details about the fundraiser through the Foundation on JustGiving.
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