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Christian grandmother given weeks to live granted final wish to see great-grandchild

Family moment: Talia Dissanayake watches her grandmother Naomi Puf holding her first son Ezra Halafoou for the first time. Photo: Palliative Care Queensland

NAOMI Puf has seen the world as a former professional dancer, but the Sri Lankan-born grandmother did not want to leave this world before seeing one special little boy.

Last month the 91-year-old received her dying wish, to meet her great-grandson Ezra Halafoou for the first time.

Baby Ezra, who was only three weeks old when he met his great-grandmother last month, is the first son to Talia Dissanayake, who is Mrs Puf’s first grandchild.

Tamara Dissanayake, who is Talia’s mum, said her mother and daughter had a special relationship.

“We were living overseas when I had Talia,” Mrs Dissanayake said.

“When Talia was born, after a few months, Mum came over to help me a bit.

“She stayed with us and (Talia) was the favourite.”

The journey to meet Talia’s first child, who is Mrs Puf’s fifth great-grandchild, has not been easy.

In 2018 Mrs Puf moved to Australia to live with her daughter and son-in-law Brian Dissanayake, who were living in Melbourne having spent 25 years in Brisbane.

When they heard a great-grandchild was on the way, they planned to return to Queensland to welcome the newest family member.

However, COVID restrictions prevented the family from an easy return home.

The three were initially knocked back from crossing the border but eventually allowed into Queensland in August and remained in hotel quarantine for 14 days.

Mrs Dissanayake said they initially asked to be self-quarantined at home because of her mum’s health.

Doctors had already determined that Mrs Puf required palliative care in March last year.

She was presumed to have renal cell carcinoma and was given four weeks to live.

Mrs Puf outlived her prognosis but the move to Queensland took a toll on her health.

“But in the hotel, Mum got sick and went into the Royal Brisbane Hospital, then we finished quarantine, came home and two days later brought her home,” Mrs Dissanayake said.

“She was with us a few days before going into palliative care, sadly.”

Mrs Puf was referred to St Vincent’s Private Hospital for palliative care and for the majority of the time was only able to have one visitor a day, usually her daughter.

“We always pray and I take holy water and apply and put on her every day,” Mrs Dissanayake said.

Shortly before being admitted to hospital, Mrs Puf had a moving moment with her unborn great-grandson.

Precious moment: Naomi Puf holds her great-grandson Ezra Halafoou for the first time. The meeting was organised by Ambulance Wish Queensland, which helps palliative care patients fulfil their final wish. Photo: Palliative Care Queensland

“We came here and moved in with Talia, Talia was standing and talking to Mum, (and) Talia lifted her top up and showed her tummy,” Mrs Dissanayake said.

“Mum kept feeling her tummy and kissing it.

“Talia’s eyes were filled with tears.

“Mum was all excited about this baby, and then she went into hospital before the baby could be born.”

With help from St Vincent’s Private Hospital, the doting great-grandmother received her dying wish to see her favourite grandchild’s first child come true.

Ambulance Wish Queensland, a program run by Palliative Care Queensland, drove the grandmother to her family for an unforgettable day.

“I was shocked really when they told us they could bring her home,” Mrs Dissanayake said.

“It was excellent.”

As well as meeting Ezra, Mrs Dissanayake got to be with family members whom she had not seen since she moved to Brisbane.

Doctors haven’t told Mrs Dissanayake how long her mum has left on Earth, but they know her heart’s desires have been fulfilled.

Ambulance Wish Queensland’s wish coordinator Jason Dingli said Mrs Puf was an incredible woman “and wanted to spend her last wish surrounded by those who matter to her the most”.

“In Sri Lankan culture, family is hugely important, so as soon as we received a referral from St Vincent’s Private Hospital Brisbane regarding Naomi’s wish, we did everything we could to make it come true,” Mr Dingli said.

“For our team to see four generations of a family share a special moment is something that we are very fortunate to be a part of, and is a reminder to everyone about how precious it is to share time with those we love.”

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