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Palliative care helped Jim McKenna live well to the very end

Jim McKenna

Flying ambition: Jim McKenna had a wish to go flying soon after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last June. He got his wish before he died on August 18 last year.

JIM McKenna always wanted to fly.

He put flying on his bucket list soon after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last June. 

“He loved any type of machine … cars, trains and planes,” Jim’s wife Patricia said.

The father of 11 children, including former Australian rugby league player Chris McKenna, jumped on two planes just weeks before his peaceful death on August 18 last year.

“He got his wish and was able to fly for several hours all around the Sunshine Coast,” Mrs McKenna said.

“He saw whales in the ocean, he went over amazing landscapes. 

“It was truly an amazing experience for him.”  

The family even surprised him with a business-class trip to Perth.

Mrs McKenna, her 11 children and 27 grandchildren remembered Jim during National Palliative Care Week between May 22 and 28.

McKenna family

Dearly loved: The late Jim McKenna (front centre) with his wife Patricia and their 11 children.

It was because of palliative care that the family was able to stay and love Jim the moment he died.

“I had no reason to think about palliative care before,” Mrs McKenna said.

“I don’t even know if I had heard the word before, to be honest. 

“Until it comes close to home you just don’t talk or think about it. 

“The palliative care support we received enabled me to be with the children at home and all I needed to do was love my husband.”  

Jim’s daughter Elizabeth Dodd said her dad had an opportunity to “live well” in his last weeks.

“He wasn’t alone, his family were always around and we could just ring Dad’s nurse from St Vincent’s, or call the 24-hour support service,” she said. 

“Dad was so lucky, he was able to really live well at home.” 

St Vincent’s Private Hospital has been providing palliative care services for peope like Jim McKenna with incurable illnesses since 1957.

It also boasts the largest palliative care service in Queensland. Community specialist palliative care manager Annabelle May said the aim was to help patients “live at home as actively as possible, for as long as possible”.

“When people learn they have a life-limiting illness they often experience overpowering feelings of anger, anxiety, depression or grief,” she said.

“We’re here to help people and their loved ones through this time.”

Ms May said the support was a “huge comfort” for families “who want to remain at home if that’s possible, but feel fearful and apprehensive”.

“Patients and their loved ones can feel confident they are in good hands,” she said. 

“(Carers) really get to know people, and their loved ones.”

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