Hospice stalwart honoured

Judy and  David Macready at home in Point Wells.

Warkworth volunteer Judy Macready has been recognised in the New Year Honours List for 26 years of work with hospice on a local, regional and national level.

Mrs Macready was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, an honour she says is wonderful but unexpected, as she felt she was simply part of an extraordinary team.

North Shore Hospice Trust chief executive Jan Nicols says many people in the hospice movement are delighted that Judy has been recognised.

“Judy was my manager when I began my hospice career 23 years ago and I remember well her inspirational leadership and her passion for people and excellent hospice care,” Jan says.

Having moved from Auckland to Algies Bay with her husband David in 1997, Mrs Macready became practice manager for Kawau Bay Health in 1999 and joined the Warkworth Wellsford Hospice committee in 2003. She chaired the Warkworth Wellsford Hospice Advisory Board at a pivotal time, helping define the vision for a new hospice building to serve patients and families in North Rodney. That vision is now taking shape with the construction of Tui House in Glenmore Drive.

As a founding member of Hospices of Auckland, Mrs Macready went on to chair the Education Committee which established the modules now provided by the Goodfellow Unit at Auckland University. She also served on the executive committee of Hospice New Zealand.

Mrs Macready describes the start of her hospice career as ‘serendipitous’. As a registered nurse and mother of small children, she was living in South Auckland and working part-time when she saw a job advertised by South Auckland Hospice.

“I knew nothing about hospice but then I met a friend who did volunteer work there. A week or so later she rang to say the trustees would like to meet me. They later asked to meet David because they had to approve of him as well – you would never get away with that now.”

The couple having passed muster, Mrs Macready became the hospice’s first paid employee in 1984, working as the community palliative care nurse when hospice was little known. All hospices started with a core group of volunteers and most employed a nurse to coordinate those roles and assess patients.

“No-one knew anything about palliative care, including me, so we were on a very steep learning curve.”

The work would have been impossible without the willingness of Mrs Macready’s husband and sons to put up with her erratic hours and call-outs in the middle of the night. It seemed the trustees had been wise in asking to meet David.

“They used to forget to pay me sometimes. What I didn’t know was that some months they barely had enough money for my wages.”

Lack of funding led to the concept of looking after people in their own homes; it was seen as more cost-effective and a way to improve care for the dying. There were only 15 beds for the Auckland region, all at St Joseph’s Hospice, run by the Sisters of Mercy. Mrs Macready later went to St Joseph’s to set up home care services for central Auckland.

At the time, the medical profession knew little about disease progression or treating the dying and keeping them comfortable, she says.

“Patients had active treatment until the professionals said ‘we can’t do any more’ and then they were put in a side room in the hospital and left to die, which is why everyone was so afraid of dying of cancer.

“There was no pain relief, no slow-release morphine tablets or morphine pumps – those two things made a huge difference. Sometimes, if symptoms were managed, it was in isolation from the whole person. The wonderful thing about the hospice philosophy was to recognise that the person has a spiritual and emotional investment in their dying.”