Hospice takes on a new meaning for Nelson man Andy Pui
When Andy Pui was asked by a doctor where he wanted to die, he wasn't sure what to say.
The 54-year-old had lived with ill health for years after being diagnosed with rheumatic fever. As his condition became terminal, the hospital told him there was little more they could do.
"It was one-on-one, one of those straight up talks, where would I like to go to die," he said.
The options were the hospital, at home or in the hospice.
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So in March, he visited the Nelson Tasman Hospice for the first time and he said the experience was "life-changing".
"I should have came in here a long time ago, maybe I wouldn't be so worn out."
Pui said he had been unwell for most of his life. Alongside the rheumatic fever, he had lost a leg and had open heart surgery.
His other organs including his kidney, liver and lungs had begun to fail due to the strain his heart was under.
Early this year, Pui was told he had anywhere from six weeks to two years left to live.
"It turns your life upside down being sick and being terminal."
He said it had been frustrating going to different places and not getting the right support or medication.
But that changed when he engaged with the hospice.
He knew of the organisation, but was not aware they were able to offer such support in the community to people who were terminally ill.
Pui is visited at home twice a week by the community nurses and also stayed at the hospice for respite care. It means his visits to hospital are less frequent.
"You just need that little bit more support so you don't get sick again so quick."
He was diagnosed with rheumatic fever when he was in his 20s and it was discovered much later that the disease had affected heart valves.
Pui and his partner Anna Henare have five kids between them. The youngest, Morehu is eight years old.
His heart problems worsened not long after Morehu was born.
"Now I can't even walk to the letterbox, going from the bed to the toilet is a real effort."
He was thankful that the hospice care extended to his family as it allowed them to spend quality time together, to have discussions about the future and share meals.
"It's actually about the quality of life that you live now."
Before he engaged with the hospice, he was taking 25 different pills each day. Now that number had dropped to eight and he said the difference was remarkable.
He had a breathing apparatus and an electric bed from the hospice which enabled him to sleep sitting up.
"All that sort of support I didn't realise existed."
Henare moved to Nelson from Hastings to care for Pui and said the support the family had received was great.
"I just thought hospice was for the dying but it's not."
Morehu often spent time at the hospice after school and she wrote a letter to the staff to say thank you for caring for her dad.
"Dear staff, you are the best people I have ever met," the letter read. "Thank you for looking after my dad, if you need any help with anything please call."
"I think it's so cool, I wanna live here," Morehu said. "I like how there is yummy chocolate cake and creamed porridge."
Pui said he was grateful for the support of the hospice.
"It's changed my life for the better."
A New Home for Hospice
The Nelson Tasman Hospice is building a new facility in Stoke and is asking for the community's help to fundraise $2.5 million of the $11.5m project. To donate, visit www.nelsonhospice.org.nz/donate