Respecting Willie’s last wishes

From The Wicklow People, 22 December 2010


William Dillon, a former resident of Sunbeam House Services (SHS) in Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow, passed away peacefully on Saturday 4 December 2010. William came to SHS ins 1994 and had lived in the Valleyview Bungalows residential unit since July 2004.

Willie had no family, but this was compensated for by his wide circle of friends, both within Sunbeam House and in the local Rathdrum community. Willie had a very gentle manner and lived a full and varied life, participating in many different activities. He had a great love of music and regularly attended the weekly music sessions at the local pub.

In November 2010, it was realised that Willie was terminally ill. It was explained to him that he was very ill, and that unfortunately he would not recover. Willie’s only wish was that he could stay at his home in Valleyview, and not be transferred to hospital. Previous admissions to hospital had been extremely stressful to him and, knowing this, it became a priority for staff to accommodate his wish in this regard.

SHS responded positively to the special situation by putting in place some necessary changes in medical care policy and practice. SHS management, staff members at Valleyview, the HSE Palliative Care Team, the local GP, chemist and priest all worked together to ensure the best possible care for Willie in his final days. The palliative care team and the local GP supported the Valleyview nursing staff in meeting Willie’s medical needs, ensuring a peaceful and pain-free death at home. The local priest called to offer spiritual comfort to him daily.

Willie received 24.hour one-to-one care during his final weeks. Staff and fellow clients in the bungalow stayed with him at all times, sharing stories and reminiscences (with the help of photographs), prayed with him and held his hand as he died in the early hours of 4 December.

In the absence of a family, the Valleyview unit manager organised Willie’s funeral. Despite snowy weather and dreadful road conditions on the day, there was an exceptional attendance at the funeral. Many of Willie’s friends from SHS, clients and staff, as well as other Rathdrum friends shared in the celebration of his life. Willie’s friends also wrote a piece about him for the local newspaper, describing his involvement in the community.