Tele-health — taking the stress out of cancer care

People often give generously to the Cancer Society without really knowing what it is we do. Les Taiatini’s story paints the picture.

On one particular day we call in to see Les at his home in Cromwell. Now 77 years old, Les has had his trials with prostate cancer, treatment on-going. He’s sitting in his usual spot in the warmth of the sun on the porch, a comfy chair for a sore back, rough brick holding down the pages of his newspaper in the nor’west wind.

Margaret Barbour, a volunteer who’s worked tirelessly for the Cancer Society for (a staggering) 25 years, sits beside him. With a shared history of working on the development of hydro electric stations — Manapouri, Benmore and Clyde — the two share a few laughs, reminiscing and talking about old friends.

Marie Wales, Supportive Care Manager, joins them, placing a lemon cake down beside Les. What becomes apparent is that Les, originally from the North Island, now prefers living closer to where he worked for so  many decades. He talks of the days working on the pylons in the dank bush of Fiordland.

“They were the best of times. I would love to go back to Manapouri,” he says.

Providing the right care for cancer patients is often complex, needing just the right people at the right time. Margaret is one such person.

She’s there when Les needs her; never overwhelming, always respectful, letting Les let her know what he needs. But the biggest obstacle to getting the right care is often the distance from a main centre. This is where the Cancer Society, Marie, stepped in to help, working with the DHB to facilitate a way for Les to talk to his clinician without needing to travel the four exhausting hours to Dunedin and back.

The key is tele-health, the DHB setting up the Skype-like link via a screen at a local Cromwell medical centre, two minutes’ drive away. Often Les doesn’t need an examination; he simply needs to talk to his oncologist. So tele-health is a godsend.

Margaret and Marie travelled with Les to nearby medical centre, where he sat in front of the screen talking directly to his doctor. Admittedly the conversation was patchy; Les is bit deaf. But with Margaret also listening, and with Marie’s expertise, they were able to continue the conversation and discuss elements of that care, even after they’d turned off the link.

Back in the warmth of the porch Margaret checks in with Les about that continuing treatment. Marie making a few notes about what else the Cancer Society can put in place to help. But it’s only with Les’s request or approval. Yes, the neighbour is coming to cut the lawns. Yes, he’s going to have his eyes checked (so he can still drive to the dairy).

And yes, do you remember those days at Manapouri?





Read more in our December 2017 Link out now!